Burrow — U.S. Environmental Protection Agency workers worked Friday to clean up a spill in a Warren Creek after a contaminant linked to a water line break at a nearby electroplating shop stained the body of water in a bright blue color.
The pollution entered Bear Creek through storm drains connected to a vacant industrial building at 24657 Mound Road, the EPA said. Investigators are awaiting sampling results to determine what contaminant flowed into the creek.
Bear Creek intersects Red Run Drain, which drains into the Clinton River and Lake St. Clair.
In an update on its website Friday evening, the EPA said efforts were underway to clean up 800 feet of impacted storm sewer along Mound Road in the sewer area near the plating shop to ensure that no business waste will enter the clean sewer line.
“The company’s contractor installed equipment, also known as pompons, in the creek to help break down agitated sediment in Bear Creek,” the EPA said. “The company will also begin recovering foam from the creek.”
Warren Mayor Lori Stone said Friday that the city’s drinking water remains safe for consumption.
“I want to reiterate that our drinking water is safe and we are taking every step to resolve this,” Stone said.
Warren city officials said Friday night that water was shut off from a burst pipe and there are no ongoing discharges into the storm drain.
“Residents are advised to stay away from the Bear Creek watershed area and not allow children or pets near the creek as cleanup efforts continue,” city officials said in a statement.
Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller said the spill has been contained and no more pollution is entering storm drains.
The spill was reported Wednesday by a construction worker replacing a culvert under Mound Road near 11 Mile Road.
“We quickly notified city officials and state and county agencies, including the governor’s office, to ensure a quick response and full investigation,” Miller said Friday. “Our public works team also quickly notified an environmental services contractor to place barriers along the surface of the open channel portion of the Bear Creek drainage.”
Booms are floating barriers that accumulate various contaminants in a body of water, but Miller said water-soluble chemicals can pass through them. She believes the unknown substance is water-soluble and continued to flow down the drain, but barriers blocked some of the foam at the surface. She said General Motors also maintains barriers at the Bear Creek Drain on its Tech Center property.
Speaking to reporters Friday where the drain meets Chicago Road, Miller said the water in the drain is no longer the bright color it was Thursday.
“Now you don’t really see anything,” he said. “It was fast. It was very fast, and if you keep going down the river to here, you don’t see any color anymore.”
Miller said the county suspects a water main break at the Mound Road industrial building on Jan. 24. There was an increase in the building’s water use that day, he said.
In a Friday morning update, the EPA said a water line inside Fini-Finish Metal Finishing’s electroplating shop broke Wednesday, causing nearly 580,000 gallons of water to flood the shop.
According to Macomb County, there was a “significant accumulation of material on the floor” of the building, including small buckets and drums of material.
Electroplating waste and contaminated debris flowed through the shop and into storm sewers that empty into Bear Creek, the EPA said.
EPA officials arrived early Thursday and began collecting samples of waste at the shop and samples of surface water and sediment in the creek to determine if the material contains hazardous substances, the agency said.
“Cleanup efforts are currently underway to clear storm sewers using vacuum trucks,” EPA officials said.
The building’s owner purchased the facility last fall. The owner hired a contractor Thursday and is working with the EPA to clean the interior of the building, the county said.
Warren city officials say they are working with federal, state and county first responders.
“While the public is advised to stay away from contamination in Bear Creek, pending test results, we want to assure the public that their drinking water is safe,” Stone said at a news conference Thursday.
Sierra Club Michigan said “gross negligence” caused the spill and said the contamination is emblematic of why the Michigan legislature should pass a strengthened polluter pay law that would require companies to take more responsibility for remediating the contamination.
“The lack of oversight of the storage of this toxic material, the fact that the EPA cannot identify it quickly and easily, the fact that our tax dollars are going to a federal emergency response due to the negligence of the former owner of “This facility are all infuriating examples of why we must act immediately on strict polluter pay laws,” said Christy McGillivray, legislative and policy director for the Sierra Club Michigan. “It is unacceptable that Michiganders are forced to continue subsidizing the bad behavior of polluters with the health of our Great Lakes, our own health, and our own taxes.”