Most evacuated Flat Rock residents may return home now

Health officials say Ford gas leak into sewer no longer a risk to indoor air of Flat Rock homes and businesses in Zone 1

Flat Rock homes affected by Ford gas leak into sewer main
Flat Rock homes affected by Ford gas leak into sewer main

FLAT ROCK, Mich. – Most residents who needed to evacuate due to a gas leak at the Ford Flat Rock Assembly Plant may return home, health officials announced Thursday afternoon.

The Wayne County Health Department and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) said they have determined that the Ford gasoline release into the sewer main is no longer a risk to the indoor air of Flat Rock homes and businesses in Zone 1, with the exception of residents of fewer than 15 homes that previously tested with concerning levels of benzene or had reportable odors.

Zone 1 is an area of Flat Rock bounded by I-75 to the east, Gibraltar Road to the north, Cahill Road to the west, and Woodruff Road to the South.

“Therefore, the vast majority of Zone 1 residents can return home immediately because testing and analysis has demonstrated that sewer line gasoline vapors have been cleared and are no longer a threat to the indoor air of homes.  Anyone with remaining health concerns regarding this gasoline release can call 734-782-2455, extension 1105,” reads a statement from county health officials.

Michigan and Wayne County officials announced on Monday that Zone 2 in Flat Rock was clear of any impact from the gas leak at the Ford plant.

Zone 1 is an area where public health officials believed there were potential health risks caused by fumes from a gasoline leak from a storage tank at Ford’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant and recommended on Sept. 4 that residents evacuate as a precaution until further notice. 

“I want to thank Flat Rock residents for their resilience throughout this difficult time,” said Wayne County Chief Operating Officer Genelle Allen. “Our goal throughout this process is to protect residents’ health and safety. I’m pleased that testing and analysis results allows us to recommend most Flat Rock residents can return home. Wayne County and MDHHS are working diligently to clear the remaining homes as soon as possible.”

County health officials said not all homes require indoor air testing because MDHHS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paired data from sewer testing with some houses across Flat Rock that initially had elevated benzene levels or gasoline odors inside their homes to validate that air levels in homes are below health levels. MDHHS said it compared the indoor air quality data in those homes with test results for sewer lines and confirmed that gasoline-related sewer vapors were substantially prevented from entering the indoor air of those homes. This health-protective approach has been successfully used under similar conditions during previous incidents. Based on extensive sewer gas testing throughout Zone 1 and the paired-home confirmatory data, MDHHS concluded that the indoor air of other homes in Zone 1 will not be at risk of being impacted from benzene or other gasoline-related chemicals now that the gasoline release has been stopped.

“I’m pleased that Zone 1 residents now have assurance that the gas leak is not impacting the air quality in their homes,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan chief medical executive and MDHHS chief deputy director for health. “MDHHS has been and remains committed to protecting the health of Flat Rock residents.”

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Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.