Yellow-green ooze that ran onto I-696 identified

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Madison Heights — A yellow-green liquid that oozed onto eastbound Interstate 696 Friday was identified as water contaminated with hexavalent chromium, a chemical normally used in textile dyes, wood preservation and inks.

A green liquid seeps out a wall along the shoulder of the eastbound lanes of I-696 just west of Couzens in Madison Heights on Friday.

Jill Greenberg, a spokeswoman with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, said the substance seeped from the basement of Electro-Plating Services' building on the 950 block of East 10 Mile, and entered a storm sewer on I-696, and a sewer cleanout between the business and the freeway service drive.

Greenberg said Saturday that crews finished vacuuming the sewers overnight and have started on the building's basement. Greenberg also said the bank of the expressway was "significantly impacted" by the spill and that all angencies involved are meeting Sunday at the Michigan Department of Transportation offices in Detroit.

Crews are installing a pump to force the liquid into a portable tank, keeping levels down in the basement and preventing more from migrating offsite, Greenberg said. The catch basins on the highway also will be pumped again, she said.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health lists hexavalent chromium as harmful to the eyes, skin and respiratory system, but EGLE officials said there was no imminent risk to the public.

"The U.S. EPA is collecting samples tonight for expedited analysis and results are expected tomorrow," Greenberg said Friday evening. "There's no public danger."

Michigan State Police closed off the shoulder and right lane of eastbound Interstate 696 near Couzens just before the evening rush hour. Police set up cones in the right lane while investigating the spill coming off of a slope, said Diane Cross, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Macomb County Public Works engineers and staff also aided in the cleanup. While the spill is taking place outside Macomb County, any material that enters storm drains along I-696 eventually travels to Lake St. Clair. 

"Pollution knows no county or city boundaries. Our first duty is to protect our local water, and we stand ready to assist our federal and state partners to contain this material," Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller said.

"The federal EPA and state EGLE, as well as the Madison Heights Fire Department, are on site and my staff is in close communication with them to ensure that this material is captured before it can migrate to the lake."

Twitter: @SarahRahal_