Chemical leak in Flat Rock ongoing, but 'contained,' state officials say

Carol Thompson
The Detroit News

Flat Rock — A chemical release in a tributary of the Huron River was ongoing Friday but contained to a back channel of the river as officials work to determine its source, state environmental officials said. 

State and federal officials have been working to contain the leak since Monday after anglers notified city officials of a "sheen" on the river.

"We consider it well contained at this point," Jill Greenberg, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, told The Detroit News on Friday. 

Emergency workers stretch a boom across part of the Huron River near Telegraph and Will Carleton Road in Flat Rock, Tuesday, February 22, 2022.

Greenberg said officials have four boom lines in the water and believe they are capturing the substance. The leak, in an area near Telegraph and Will Carleton Road, appears to be coming up from beneath the water, but officials don't believe it is entering the Huron River itself, she noted. 

The substance is being removed with a vacuum truck, which has been on the site for three days, she said. Testing of the substance by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is ongoing. 

"In terms of investigating sources, nothing has been ruled out," Greenberg added. "We’re investigating all possibilities."

Flat Rock reported the issue to the state's emergency pollution alert system on Monday. There are four pipelines underneath the river, three of which carry petroleum. All of the pipelines were shut down Tuesday and pressure tested.

EPA spokeswoman Taylor Gillespie has said no problems were identified with the pipelines, but monitoring found low levels of volatile organic compounds and benzene in the air around the spill.

The chemical release comes after the city was hit last year by a gas leak that caused it to order a third of its residents to evacuate their homes. 

The gas leak at Ford Motor Co.'s Flat Rock Assembly Plant displaced thousands of Flat Rock residents. The gas leaked into the city's sewer system and fumes caused some to smell gasoline and resulted in elevated levels of benzene in the air. 

ckthompson@detroitnews.com