Mysterious Green Ooze on Michigan Highway Identified

From an unlicensed hazardous-waste site whose owner is behind bars
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 23, 2019 8:00 AM CST

If anyone who's ever seen The Blob was driving along Michigan's I-696 on Friday, alarm would've been a natural reaction to the sight on the side of the highway about a half-mile from the Macomb-Oakland county line. The Detroit Free Press reports a sludgy greenish-yellow substance was spotted oozing out of the cracks of the highway's retaining walls, shutting down lanes until at least Monday. The first order of business was determining what the gunk was. The state's Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy says Environmental Protection Agency investigators believe the material to be groundwater contaminated with hexavalent chromium, "usually produced by an industrial process" and known to cause cancer, per the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The next mystery—figuring out where the slime originated from—also appears to have been solved: EGLE says the tainted groundwater is likely the residual result of a 2016 cleanup at Electro-Plating Services, an unlicensed hazardous-waste facility whose owner, Gary Sayers, was sentenced to a year behind bars. Crews have so far vacuumed out the sewers, as well as the company's basement, where the green liquid was also found. WDIV notes that while "the short-term issue is stopping that ooze, the long-term issue is: Where else has it traveled?" Although EGLE says investigators have determined there's no imminent public risk, a release from Macomb County Public Works notes that officials are keeping an eye on things, because any material that seeps into storm drains along the highway ends up in Lake St. Clair., which lies between Michigan and Ontario, Canada. (More strange stuff stories.)

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