State, feds: No hazardous materials at Sanilac Co. property of ooze site owner

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

State and federal officials found no hazardous materials at the site of a Sanilac County home owned by the man whose Madison Heights business is believed to be the source of green ooze leaking onto Interstate 696. 

A state conservation officer and a representative from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday visited Gary Sayers’ Marion Township property, said Jill Greenberg, a spokeswoman for the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. 

While there was an increase of scrap materials and containers from a previous 2017 visit, a preliminary investigation found no hazardous materials "nor visual evidence of a dump that would have resulted in discolored soil or vegetation," Greenberg said. 

"EGLE continues to investigate the site to verify the preliminary report," she said, noting final results were expected Tuesday. 

Officials walked the 23-acre property during the Monday site visit, but did not go inside the home, said Sanilac County Emergency Manager Todd Hillman, who accompanied state and federal officials. 

"There was a lot of scrap iron, a lot of salvage material," Hillman said. "There were a few barrels scattered around. The ones that were there had been there for a considerable amount of time. They were empty.”

On Dec. 20, motorists in Oakland County spotted the ooze seeping from a wall on eastbound I-696; the Electro-Plating Services, shuttered by the state in December 2016, is right above the site of the ooze.

Contractors from Mannik Smith Group collect water samples at the contaminated facility from which the green ooze leaked out and seeped onto the shoulder of I-696 recently.

Nearly 11,000 gallons of contaminated water have been collected from the former Electro-Plating Services building, long owned by Sayers, at 945 E. 10 Mile, EGLE said Friday.

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

Sayers is serving a federal prison sentence in West Virginia for illegal handling of hazardous waste, and he has been ordered to repay the federal government $1.5 million for the EPA's initial 2017 cleanup of the Madison Heights site.

Marion Township Supervisor Kurt Shubel said he contacted the state last week about the Sanilac County property after media informed him of what appeared to be hazardous waste at the home. 

Shubel, also the township’s zoning administrator, issued Sayers a blight citation in June after neighbors complained about construction materials that were being blown off the property on windy days. 

Shubel issued a land use permit Aug. 1 to Sayers to build a pole barn to house some of the building materials. Shubel said he was unaware of any hazardous waste on the property at the time, but wrote on Sayers’ application that the facility would be “a storage unit for non-toxic materials.”  

“All you could see from the road was building materials and like a cement mixing machine,” he said. 

State and federal environmental officials made a site visit to the Marion Township home in 2017 and found no hazardous materials, Greenberg said.