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EGLE says likely source of Flat Rock spill identified

Contractors removing the still-unknown substance from a branch of the Huron River.

Updated March 8,2022 at 3 p.m.: 

An EPA spokesperson says tests have identified the substance causing the spill as “weathered heating oil.”

Original post: March 3, 2022 at 8:15 p.m.:

Michigan’s environmental agency says investigators have found the likely source of an ongoing spillin a branch of the Huron River south of Detroit.

Anglers first reported a sheen on the Huron River near Flat Rock on February 21. Since then, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have been trying to find the source.

They now say they’ve most likely found it: a leaky underground storage tank at the Flat Rock Metal industrial facility near the river.

That company says the tank dates back 100 years, to when a Ford Motor Company lamp factory occupied the property. In a statementreleased on Wednesday, the steel processor said it “had no record of the tank, nor did the state of Michigan.” It went on to say that “all we can do is address the tank and contain and dispose of any fuel oil that was in it. We are dedicated to continuing to work with authorities to ensure our environment and community are safe.”

Flat Rock Metal is participating in excavation and remediation efforts on its own property after it was contacted by the EPA, said EGLE spokesperson Jill Greenberg. She said the spill is ongoing, but for now is well-contained by floating booms. Vacuum trucks are also removing the substance from the water.

The nature of that substance remains unconfirmed for now. Greenberg said that EPA test results should be available by the end of the week.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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