Jackson County candidate drops House bid after threat investigations surface

Feds: Owner of Madison Heights 'ooze' site has reported to prison

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Madison Heights — Gary Sayers, owner of the industrial site in Madison Heights that authorities believe is the source of the ooze that emerged from a wall along Interstate 696, has reported to federal prison in West Virginia, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

The bureau's website lists Sayers, 70, as an inmate at Federal Correctional Institution, Morgantown, which it described as a minimum-security facility with a detention center and a population of about 700 male inmates.

More: Officials visit second site connected to business owner

Sayers' sentence is for illegal handling of hazardous waste and he has been ordered to repay the federal government $1.5 million for the Environmental Protection Agency's initial 2017 cleanup of the site

Sayers' prison term will end on Nov. 9, according to the website.

The Morgantown facility does not have a perimeter fence, according to a 2018 audit report on its compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Its visiting hours are on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. 

On Dec. 20, motorists 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. That day, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, declared it posed "no threat to drinking water or air quality."

More:Madison Heights hazardous waste cleanup could last through holidays

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

“The owner of the building has dug a pit that was 10-by-10-feet and 5 feet deep in the basement and he was just pouring his contaminants into this earthen hole,” said Jill Greenberg, a spokeswoman for EGLE. “While it was flushed out over time, the contaminants still leached into the soil. There’s holes in the roof where water and snow got in, mixing in with the chemicals and found its way out.”

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. 

The condemned building is being heavily guarded to prevent people from entering, with few EPA investigators allowed in at a time to limit exposure to the chemical, officials said.

More:Official: Ooze site can’t be fully corrected until it's knocked down

State officials now say the ooze can't be remediated until the building has been torn down. The city of Madison Heights is in litigation against Sayers in hopes of doing just that, and that case is slated to begin in Oakland County Circuit Court on Jan. 13. Sayers' team is seeking delays; the city wants to move forward. Arguments will be heard on adjournment on Wednesday, The News previously reported.