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Heavy metals but no chromium-6 in pits in Gary Sayers' Detroit warehouse

A photo of the pit in the EPS basement before the 2017 emergency clean-up.

When Detroit firefighters found pits filled with liquid in the basement of a warehouse owned by Gary Sayers, state officials had to assume the worst.

That's because similar pits in the basement of Electro-Plating Services in Madison Heights were heavily contaminated with hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen.  

Chromium turns liquids green, which resulted in a "green ooze," spilling from the EPS site onto I-696 in December.

Now, test results show that the liquid in the warehouse pits is in fact contaminated, but primarily with heavy metals. 

In addition, levels of PFOS, a chemical in the PFAS family, were "slightly above surface water quality standards," according to the state's Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. 

12 parts per trillion is the state's water quality standard for PFOS for surface water that's not used for drinking water.

Officials are removing the contaminated liquids from the warehouse, and say it will be treated and properly disposed of.

Meanwhile, a total of 59,000 gallons of contaminated liquids have been removed so far, from the site of Electro-Plating Services.

Gary Sayers is in federal prison, serving a nearly one-year prison sentence for repeatedly violating hazardous chemical storage and disposal laws.

The city of Madison Heights is suing in 6th Circuit Court, seeking a court order allowing the demolition of the buildings on the Electro-Plating Services property.

State and federal environmental regulators say until the demolition happens, it won't be possible to conduct a more thorough cleanup.  

Soils on the site are believed to be highly contaminated, and groundwater that regularly fills the basement pits continues to become contaminated with hexavalent chromium.

Liesl Clark, the Director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, told state legislators earlier this month that the state had "pulled its punches," against Gary Sayers.

She vowed a top to bottom study of procedures and culture at the department to figure out why he was allowed to flout the law for so many years.

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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