Ford says they are the 'likely source' of odor that triggered Flat Rock State of Emergency

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Posted at 8:32 PM, Sep 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-04 20:32:18-04

FLAT ROCK, Mich. — Ford Motor Company has released a statement saying their Flat Rock Assembly Plant is the "likely source" of a gas odor that sparked a State of Emergency in Flat Rock.

The statement reads as follows:

We take our responsibilities as a corporate citizen and to protect the environment seriously. We’ve been working with city, state and federal agencies over the last several days to understand and address the issue in Flat Rock.

Wednesday afternoon, we discovered what originally looked to be a relatively small leak in a pipe that carries gasoline used to fuel vehicles built at the plant. We shut down the fuel pipe, called in experts to remove gas from a containment tank and the primary storage tank, and notified officials of what we found. We believed then that the leak was contained to our property.

With support from outside experts, we continued to investigate. Today, we determined that the scale of the fuel leak was much larger, and that Ford is the likely source of the problem in Flat Rock, for which we apologize. We’re urgently addressing the matter; there’s more we need to know in order to confidently develop and implement a corrective plan. In the meantime, as planned, the plant will be closed through the Labor Day weekend. As a precaution, we’re in the process of isolating wastewater on our property from the city’s system. Ford is assisting government officials as cleanup work begins in the community.

With officials, we’re also identifying people whose lives have been disrupted by this and are committed to helping those neighbors as we work through this problem.

We will provide additional information as it becomes available.
Bob Holycross Vice President, Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering Ford

Officials say the odor was first reported Monday night, which very soon culminated in a joint operation with more than 10 local, state, and federal agencies involved.

As per the initial reports, the odor started South of Gibraltar Road stretching till Huron River Drive, and then this morning it was extended till the North of Vreeland.

The Wayne County executive’s office says hazardous material teams from the Wayne County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management are helping local officials with the response. The Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Michigan are also assisting.

The spill, according to officials, does not affect the community’s drinking water. Four homes near a treatment plant were evacuated and River Heights Academy was closed out of an abundance of caution.

Flat Rock residents who smell a strange odor in their home are encouraged to call 734-782-2496.

Friday night, the state of Michigan released the following update to the situation saying a special foam will be used to suppress the smell:

The city of Flat Rock plans to use firefighting foam to suppress the vapors found this week within the city’s sanitary system.

Officials also identified a potential source of the substance. The industrial facility has taken measures, including inserting plugs into the onsite sanitary sewer system to prevent it from entering the city’s sanitary system at a location north of Gibraltar Road at the Ford Flat Rock Assembly Plant property.

The emulsifying foam solution, which does not contain the contaminant PFAS, is designed to bond with hydrocarbons (like gasoline) to help break down the organic compounds. It will be applied inside impacted sanitary sewers to lower combustibility.

High levels of benzene have been detected in a 4-square-mile perimeter involving the areas south of Vreeland Road, east of Cahill Road, north of Woodruff Road, and west of Interstate 75.

At least a dozen federal, state and local agencies have responded to Flat Rock to determine the source and identify the substance, which was first reported to the city in the early morning of Aug. 31.