Flat Rock cancels Riverfest; Ford plugs source of gasoline leak
Flat Rock — The Flat Rock Riverfest, a two-day festival planned for Friday and Saturday, has been canceled due to last week's gasoline spill and the state of emergency, officials said.
The festival was announced in June. It would have been held at Huroc Park and offered pony rides, a petting zoo, a beer tent and a fire department obstacle course, among other attractions.
The cancellation means the fallout of the chemical spill will stretch to a second week, at least.
On Aug. 30, "gasoline-like" odors were reported to the city, Mayor Mark Hammond said.
By Friday night, Ford Motor Co. said its Flat Rock Assembly Plant was the "likely source" of the leak.
On Saturday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, along with the Wayne County Health Department, recommended that Flat Rock residents near the plant evacuate their homes.
Ford created a $1 million relief fund and lined up hotel rooms for people who left their homes, the AP said.
Jill Greenberg, spokeswoman for the Michigan department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, told The Detroit News on Monday that days ago, Ford plugged the source of the leak and the Flat Rock Fire Department applied firefighting foam.
"This stopped the flow of the fuel spill into the Flat Rock sanitary sewer system, and the foam has suppressed the vapors," Greenberg said. "Monitoring indicates explosive hazards have been mitigated through the entire Flat Rock system."
Tests over the last 48 hours have found levels of the gas in the sewer system "below explosive thresholds. There is no longer risk of explosion,” EGLE said, the Associated Press reported.
A number of Flat Rock residents told The News over the weekend that they were weighing the inconvenience of leaving against the safety concerns of staying.
Officials have said they did not have a number for how many residents potentially have been exposed to the chemical that leaked into Flat Rock's sewer system and can cause health problems if exposure comes in a large dose or over a long period.
Volunteers in the city say they are going door to door to offer help.
The voluntary evacuations followed orders to evacuate nine homes, a business and a charter school beginning Thursday. As of Sunday, about a dozen homes had evacuated.
"Zone one," where evacuations are recommended, stretches from Interstate 75 to the east, Gibraltar Road to the north, Cahill Road to the west and Woodruff to the south.
Residents who leave will not be expected to pay for accommodations, officials said, and should call United Way at 211 for help.
Zone two, where there is potential exposure, runs from Gibraltar Road to the north, Sheeks Road to the west, East Huron River Drive to the south and Tamarack to the east, according to the state.
"The community is at risk of exposure to high levels of benzene, considered a total Volatile Organic Compound (VOC), which can be harmful to human health," the state warned. "Measurements of air inside buildings and sewer lines have shown levels of VOCs exceeding health protective and/or explosive levels."
Wayne County and the state have issued "state of emergency" declarations for the city of 10,000.