Pontiac — A civil trial involving a Madison Heights polluter will proceed as scheduled next week, an Oakland Circuit judge ruled Wednesday.

Judge Hala Jarbou denied a motion by an attorney for Gary Sayers to delay the Jan. 13 trial because he is in prison and unable to be in court to help with his defense.  Sayers reported last weekend to begin serving a one-year sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty to illegal handling of hazardous waste.

Neither Sayers’ attorney nor officials with Madison Heights could be immediately reached for comment.

Sayers’ companies include the defunct Electro-Plating Services on E. 10 Mile Road in Madison Heights, which has been identified as the source of a green ooze that spilled out on the shoulder of Interstate 696 on Dec. 20. Analysis of the ooze found high levels of hexavalent chromium, cyanide, trichloroethylene (a degreasing agent) and other metals and hazardous chemicals used in the prior business, the city of Madison Heights argued.

Sayers has been cited numerous times over the past 20 years by city, state and federal agencies. As part of his federal plea, Sayers is responsible for paying back $1.4 million reportedly spent in cleaning up the Madison Heights property.

The city of Madison Heights sued to obtain a court order of demolition of the property and have Sayers made to pay the costs. If he is unable or resists doing the demolition, the city wants authority to do the work itself.

In legal briefs, the city argued Sayers’ presence is not needed in court, especially in a bench trial before Jarbou. The city noted Sayers has an attorney and said his property constitutes a public health hazard for the city and thousands of residents.

Chemical waste stored in an earthen pit in the building’s basement is believed to have leached into the groundwater and found its way out to the freeway. Sump pumps have been operating to remove the material for safe disposal and soil borings continue.

In a related matter, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy reported Wednesday it has collected four soil and water samples from a property in Sanilac County owned by Sayers.

During a site visit to the Marion Township property, state officials say they have collected water samples upstream and downstream of an empty drum found in a creek, a soil sample in the area of an empty trichloroethylene (TCE) drum and another from the bank of the creek. EGLE found no obvious signs of earth disturbance, but noted a huge volume of scrap and junk on the property.

The samples were sent out Wednesday for expedited analysis.  

The investigation is in response to several inquiries to Sanilac County Emergency Management regarding the property in Marion Township.

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