Tlaib urges EPA to aid in probe of green ooze owner's Detroit building

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib on Thursday asked the Environmental Protection Agency to provide "additional assistance" to investigate potential hazardous materials found recently at a Detroit building.

Tlaib, D-Detroit, addressed the Jan. 16th letter to EPA Director Andrew Wheeler about the property owned by Gary Sayers, who was recently imprisoned for violations of federal environmental laws at his shuttered Electro-Plating Services in Madison Heights after green ooze was found leaking last month onto Interstate 696.

Commonwealth Industries at 5900 Commonwealth in Detroit on Jan. 10, 2020.  This property is owned by Gary Sayers, owner of Electro-Plating Services in Madison Heights where hazardous violations took place.

The Madison Heights incident has led to investigations of other properties owned by Sayers, including the Detroit the property at 5900 Commonwealth Street. The probe there by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy is expected to yield test results on materials and liquids inside the building within days, officials said.

Tlaib asked for current sampling and testing conducted including the full list of contaminants being assessed; the extent and levels of contamination including PFAS chemicals if found; the EPA's assessment or inspection of any other properties owned by Sayers and the agency's long-term solutions to prevent more toxic waste.

Since hazardous chemicals were found in Madison Heights, "there is great concern about this new discovery in Detroit" with multiple pits of colorful liquid, Tlaib said.

In early January, state and federal officials said they found no hazardous materials at Sayers' site in Sanilac County.

The environmental department collected samples of the liquids in the building and "sent those out per expedited results," said EGLE spokeswoman Jill Greenberg.

"We cannot remove any of the liquids until we know what we're dealing with," she said. "Once we know the chemical make-up of the liquids, then we can transport them and dispose of them properly. We can't really proceed further until we have test results."

The green liquid looks "very similar" to what the department has seen in Madison Heights but the tests will confirm whether it is hexavalent chromium, Greenberg said.

Detroit Fire Department inspectors identified potentially hazardous liquids at the site, according to state officials. The substances were not found on the site when it was inspected in December as part of the investigation into the materials that leached green ooze onto I-696 in Oakland County.

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