FLAT ROCK, Mich. – Officials with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) said three additional homes were evacuated as part of an emergency response to hazardous chemicals found in Flat Rock this week.
As of Friday night, officials said 10 homes and one school have been evacuated.
EGLE confirmed Friday that the potential source of the odor is the Ford Flat Rock Assembly Plant. The benzene vapor in the sewers is from a fuel leak at the plant, initially estimating a spill between 1,000 to 3,000 gallons.
“HAZMAT technicians will begin mitigating flammable vapors in the municipal sanitary system by injecting fire suppressant foam. These activities will take place at various locations where levels of benzene have been detected in a 4-square-mile perimeter of Flat Rock,” read an update from EGLE. “This boundary involves the areas south of Vreeland Road, east of Cahill Road, north of Woodruff Road, and west of Interstate 75. Responding agencies will continuously evaluate this mitigation effort for effectiveness.”
According to Ford, it first caught a leak in a fuel pipe Wednesday. It shut the pipe down and had the fuel in the primary and containment tanks removed.
EGLE said fire suppression foam is being put in the sewers to handle the vapor issue but residents still need to be on alert for foul odors.
“If they smell something that is unusual call the non- emergency line in Flat Rock and report it, if they’re feeling lightheaded or dizzy they need to immediately exit the home, get fresh air and call 911,”said EGLE Spokesperson Jill Greenberg.
Handling the vapor issue is the short term fix, while the long term of how to clean it up is still in the works. Ford has put plugs in the sewers leading from the plants to stop any further gas leakage.
Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans first declared a state of emergency for the city of Flat Rock on Thursday. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer then declared a state of emergency for the city of Flat Rock and Wayne and Monroe counties Thursday night.
Read Ford’s full statement below.
“We take our responsibilities as a corporate citizen and to protect the environment seriously. We’ve been working with city, state and federal agencies over the last several days to understand and address the issue in Flat Rock.
“Wednesday afternoon, we discovered what originally looked to be a relatively small leak in a pipe that carries gasoline used to fuel vehicles built at the plant. We shut down the fuel pipe, called in experts to remove gas from a containment tank and the primary storage tank, and notified officials of what we found. We believed then that the leak was contained to our property.
“With support from outside experts, we continued to investigate. Today, we determined that the scale of the fuel leak was much larger, and that Ford is the likely source of the problem in Flat Rock, for which we apologize. We’re urgently addressing the matter; there’s more we need to know in order to confidently develop and implement a corrective plan. In the meantime, as planned, the plant will be closed through the Labor Day weekend. As a precaution, we’re in the process of isolating wastewater on our property from the city’s system. Ford is assisting government officials as cleanup work begins in the community.
“With officials, we’re also identifying people whose lives have been disrupted by this and are committed to helping those neighbors as we work through this problem.
“We will provide additional information as it becomes available.”Bob Holycross, Ford vice president of Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering