Federal officials this year refused to fully clean up the toxic chemical menu still on the site of the Madison Heights plant, which is responsible for infiltrating the contaminated green mud into I-696.
The EPA made this decision after receiving a report from Michigan environmental officials in March, who detailed the remaining pollutants on the property and outlined the next steps for the assessment.
Issues of concern include the possibility of “green wastewater containing dangerous levels of chromium” leaking into the soil and shallow groundwater from basements.
The EPA has spent nearly a year removing thousands of gallons of chemicals from the former electroplating service plant, and the state closed at the end of 2016 after at least 20 years of environmental issues.
Hugh McDiarmid of the Great Lakes District Energy Agency (EGLE) of Michigan said: “Based on the information in the (state report), the EPA determined that it did not meet the criteria for continuing Superfund review.”
As a result, McDiarmid said that the property has not been moved to the Superfund assessment list. According to the EPA procedure, this step will involve other on-site analysis and determine whether the chemical is moving off-site.
One reason for the lack of action seems to be due to the low level of concern that this chemical (including hexavalent chromium, cyanide and trichloroethylene) will enter drinking water sources. Since December 23, EPA has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
However, the CERCLA preliminary assessment prepared by EGLE and submitted to the EPA on March 28 did specify that the chemical remains in properties less than 100 feet from I-696 and located in a densely populated area north of Detroit in Oakland County.
“Waste is cleared and moved to a different place, but may be released into soil or groundwater due to documented leaks and poor containment, including the following harmful substances: ammonia, cadmium, chromium, cyanide, chromium and cyanide liquids, Gasoline, lead, mercury, nickel, silver, toluene, TCE, waste oil, xylene and zinc.” EGLE informed EPA.
The report continued: “Based on recorded investigations, there are many historical sources of hazardous material releases. Two existing sources are known, and one or more potential sources may exist.”
This includes at least 200 cubic yards of contaminated underground soil and up to 100,000 pounds of pollutants released from major factories. EGLE said that possible emissions include acetone, ammonia, benzene, chromium, cyanide, ethylbenzene, mercury, toluene, TCE, xylene and zinc.
Although the EGLE report did not point out the possibility of chemical substances leaking through the retaining walls of the highway, it did point out that some pollutants were flowing into the northeast in shallow groundwater.
He also pointed out the threat of chemical substances on the property to surface water: “Pollutants may reach tributaries of the Clinton River through the onshore flow of rainwater drains. If release occurs on the ground, the pollutants may migrate on the ground to nearby Known sewers along 10 miles east.”
Although high levels of hexavalent chromium were found in nearby rainwater pipes, state officials said that tests on drinking water intake showed no risk to the public. The water from the property flows into the four sub-basins of the Clinton River and eventually drains into the northern part of Lake St. Clair.
This month is not the first time that cancer-causing chemicals have migrated from closed factories. According to EGLE, it was discovered that the property released hexavalent chromium in 1994. It said this shows that there is still an ongoing threat.
The staff wrote at the beginning of this year: “Because of the confirmed release to groundwater, there is the possibility of continued release, especially because the remaining water sources have not been significantly suppressed.”
Although EPS can be traced back to the 1990s, there are many problems in supervision, but it faces escalating law enforcement after 2010. By the fall of 2016, state officials conducted inspections. According to the conclusion of the report submitted to EPA:
• The sludge excavated from the mine is surrounded by a berm reportedly made from hazardous waste chromium in the mine.
On December 21, 2016, New York State issued the “Cessation and Suppression of Action Order.” On December 22, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was asked to conduct an emergency cleanup. This $2 million work lasted until December 2017.
At the same time, most of the buildings used for metal plating operations are still on site, and one of them was demolished. The owner, Gary Sayers, was convicted in 2019 and sentenced to federal prison and compensation for pollution.
McDimid said that because both agencies have decided on the best steps to continuously manage chemicals entering highways and storm drains, the state is still actively participating in the EPA. So far, it is not clear why the EPA refused to conduct further inspections of the site earlier this year and whether this situation will change.
EGLE’s internal review also began to see whether the on-site assessors missed any potential chemical pathways to I-696, such as utility pipes.
According to EGLE, regulators continue to work on site every day, including the following activities:
To report an environmental emergency, please contact the pollution emergency alert system hotline 1-800-292-4706.
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A civic group in St. Louis, Michigan has been working hard to clear the land that houses an ancient chemical plant, which is one of the largest health accidents in the history of the state.
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Post time: Nov-07-2020