State probes possible contamination at 2nd property linked to ooze site owner

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Michigan's environmental agency confirmed Friday night that state officials are investigating possible chemical contamination at a property in Sanilac County reportedly owned by the same businessman who's under scrutiny for a toxic leak from a shuttered firm in Madison Heights.

Jill Greenberg, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, said agency investigators will visit the site in Marion Township after receiving a report about materials stored on the property, which Gary Sayers reportedly listed as his residence. Sayers owns the Electro-Plating site where green ooze spilled onto Interstate 696 on Dec. 20.

A green liquid seeps out of wall along the shoulder of the eastbound lanes of I-696 just west of Couzens Avenue in Madison Heights, December 20, 2019.

"From what I understand, it is his property and we are treating it like it is his property," she said.

"We received a call about the (Sanilac) property so today the Sanilac County emergency manager went onsite to look at it," Greenberg said Friday night. "EGLE is aware of the situation and we are working with officials to investigate. We will send EGLE people out for an official site visit and Monday and Tuesday."

In 2017, EGLE visited the Marion Township property and found no hazardous materials on site, she said.

Citing concerns about both properties, the chairman of the state House Appropriations Committee said he plans hearings to "focus on what state environmental quality officials knew about possible contamination, when they knew about it, and what was done in response.”

“I am outraged by this situation," said state Rep. Shane Hernandez, R-Port Huron. "First we hear about the green ooze on I-696, and now we see this alarming situation in Sanilac County. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars cleaning up the environment and protecting health.

"Citizens demand that their tax dollars are spent effectively to protect public health, and they expect the state to respond quickly and effectively any time public health may be jeopardized," Hernandez said. "It is my intent to ensure accountability so that happens."

The state officials' statements followed a report by WXYZ-TV (Ch. 7) that it found evidence of possible chemical contamination at the Sanilac County site.

Also Friday, EGLE officials said nearly 11,000 gallons of contaminated water have been collected from the former Electro-Plating Services building at 945 E. 10 Mile. The chemical migrated out of the building’s basement, moved underground and entered a storm sewer on eastbound I-696 near Couzens and the freeway service drive.

The liquid was identified as groundwater contaminated with hexavalent chromium, a cancer-causing chemical used in textile dyes, wood preservation and ink, according to EGLE.