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Tests indicate no threat to drinking water for Lake St. Clair communities after electroplating spill


State environmental regulators say there's no risk to drinking water from contaminated water that spilled onto Interstate 696 last week.  

The green liquid that gushed onto the highway in Madison Heights on December 20th came from a closed factory, Electro-Plating Services. 

The owner violated state environmental laws for years and will soon go to jail.  But he leaves a big problem behind - a decrepit factory with a basement contaminated with highly toxic stuff, including chromium-6, a known carcinogin. 

The spill happened when the basement flooded. 

The U.S. EPA says its tests show the level of chromium-6 in storm sewers near the site was above the drinking water standard, but by the time it reaches water intakes in Lake  St. Clair, it will be far below the standard.  From the state's press release:

Test of water in the storm sewers near the site showed levels of hexavalent chromium at 0.14 milligrams per liter (mg/L). The standard for drinking water is 0.10 mg/L. The storm sewer eventually enters Lake St. Clair miles away. At that point, concentrations would be well below detectable levels although still a significant concern for incremental accumulation in the ecosystem.
The tests, conducted by the EPA, also showed high levels of contaminants in the groundwater between the building and the I-696 service drive, including chromium, trichloroethylene (TCE) and cyanide – all chemicals previously used in the Electro-Plating facility.

Pumps are in place now to prevent a similar occurence, and soil tests to decide next steps are planned.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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