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Green liquid gushing from walls on Michigan highway keeps lanes closed

DETROIT — The mysterious, greenish-yellow liquid that ran onto a Michigan highway on Friday came from a closed electroplating business whose owner is serving a year in federal prison for operating an unlicensed hazardous waste storage facility.

Lanes will remain closed until Monday after the fluid gushed from the walls of I-696 about a half mile from the Oakland-Macomb county line at Dequindre, according to Madison Heights Fire Department Capt. Kevin Powers.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was called to investigate and determined the liquid likely was groundwater contaminated with hexavalent chromium, according to The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).

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EGLE said in a statement that the seepage was directly in line with Electro-Plating Services. Crews spent Friday night vacuuming the sewers and eventually started on the basement at Electro-Plating Services, where green liquid was found in the basement pit.

Workers were installing a pump in the basement pit to keep water levels down and “prevent more offsite migration,” EGLE said.

“The bank of the expressway is significantly impacted,” the agency said. “Sample results are now expected Tuesday. All agencies involved are meeting tomorrow at MDOT offices in Detroit.”

EGLE, then the Department of Environmental Quality, issued the business a cease-and-desist order in December 2016 “for imminent and substantial threat due to the mismanagement of hazardous waste,” the statement said.

The closed business’s owner, Gary Sayers, pleaded guilty in April of operating an unlicensed hazardous waste storage facility and sentenced to one year in federal prison. 

EPA removed hazardous chemicals from the site after it was closed, but did not remediate soil or groundwater contamination.