Toxic ooze seeping from I-696 Freeway


Molly Anderson, Staff writer

   In early December, a toxic ooze was found spilling onto the I-696 Freeway in Madison Heights. The yellowish-chemical was said to be cancer-causing, raising concern among people living in the area. The cause of the spill dates back several years ago, in a now-closed factory called ElectroPlating Services.

   In 2016, ElectroPlating Services, a metal-plating company, closed down due to the owner, Gary Sayers, illegally keeping hazardous waste in the basement of the factory. He dug a pit into the ground of this basement in an attempt to dispose of it, however, he did not realize that the liquid would seep through the grounds and end up on the highway. It is unknown how long the seeping has been occurring.

   The public naturally became concerned about the leaking ooze, thinking it could possibly end up in their drinking water. Although the chemical was reported cancerous, there is supposedly no risk to the public’s health.

   “Concentrations would be well below detectable levels although still a significant concern for incremental accumulation in the ecosystem,” wrote a news release.

   The Mayor of Warren, Jim Fouts, assured residents that the drains are completely safe.

   “Great news Warren residents as our IPP inspectors checked out all of our drains in the city, that could possibly be contaminated with green goo on 696, and the result is NO contamination! Our Industrial Pretreatment Program* inspectors headed by Ted Landway tested all storm drains connected to 696 and found NO POLLUTION from the spill in Madison Heights,” explained Fouts.

   In late December, the leak was fixed with two pumps that collected the liquid inside a tank. The chemicals are said to have been legally disposed.

   The issue has sparked the urgency to keep a close eye on skeptical, shut down factories like ElectroPlating Services. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer gave her opinion on what needs to happen in the future.

   “It’s time for Republicans in the Legislature to ensure EGLE has the technology and resources it needs to keep the public safe. They should ‘Polluter Pay’ legislation championed by Democrats in the Legislature that will force polluters to clean up the mess they make,” stated Whitmer.

   As for Sayers, he is facing time in federal prison. He pleaded guilty to storing the illegal waste in his factory in February, and was given a year in prison. He was also fined nearly $1.5 million for the cleanup of the dangerous waste. As of Friday, Jan. 3, he is now in prison.