Test results confirm petroleum spill on Flint River; cleanup at spill site nears completion
Test results confirm that a petroleum substance was spilled into the Flint River on June 29. Based on the limited amount of material found in the storm sewer system, the City of Flint believes that approximately 10 gallons were released into the river, contrary to the initial estimate of 200-300 gallons. After investigating the storm sewer line, the City of Flint has concluded that the spill originated near Dort Hwy, was a one-time discharge, and has stopped.
On June 30, 2023 samples were collected at three locations along the storm sewer pipe and analyzed for Oil & Grease, Total Volatile Toxic Organics (VTOs), Gasoline-Range Organics (GRO), Diesel-Range Organics (DRO), and Oil-Range Organics (ORO). The samples were picked up by a contract lab on July 5, 2023. Results show trace amounts of Oil & Grease and VTOs. GRO was not detected. DRO and ORO were found in the samples collected, confirming that it was a petroleum spill.
On June 29, booms were placed in the Flint River around the storm sewer outfall near the Utah Ave. bridge. Since then, the booms have been continuously maintained to absorb any discharge in the river. The City of Flint believes that residue at the outfall has been completely absorbed but plans to leave the booms in place until Monday, July 24 as a precautionary measure. When the cleanup is determined to be complete, the City of Flint will lift its recommendation to avoid contact with the Flint River near the Utah Ave. bridge.
The spill discovered last Thursday on the Flint River is still contained, and monitoring continues at a storm sewer outfall near the Utah Dam. Officials believe that the flow of contaminants has stopped, but booms remain in place at the outfall while the City awaits results of sampling.
The City of Flint Sewer Division is still tracing the source of the spill. Samples have been taken at several locations in the storm sewer system and the first results could be available late next week. Sampling is ongoing to determine where the substance is still present.
The City of Flint is following the Genesee County Health Department’s lead in recommending no contact with the Flint River in the area of the spill. Other areas of the river are not impacted.
The Genesee County Health Department provided a statement to the City of Flint advising continued precautions: “The Genesee County Health Department recommends no contact with the Flint River at this time, including fishing and recreational activities, from Dort Hwy to Vietnam Veterans Park. Further investigation is ongoing.”
This spill was significantly smaller than the June 2022 Lockhart spill—about 200-300 gallons of material compared to over 5,000 gallons last year. Unlike the Lockhart spill, this material did not migrate to any other areas of the river, and has remained contained near the Utah Dam.
“Any spill into the Flint River is unacceptable,” Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley said. “Although this spill is not as large as the Lockhart spill last year, we remain vigilant and committed to apprehending the people responsible for this. This volume of material did not get into the river on its own. We are confident that this is the result of human activity, and we are sending out a warning that no illegal dumping of any kind will be tolerated in the city of Flint. Local conservationists have spent decades rehabilitating the Flint River after a long period of negative industrial impact. We will not return to that time of unchecked harm to our environment, which threatens the health of both people and wildlife.”
The City of Flint is continuing to collaborate with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department, the Genesee County hazmat team, and EGLE on the site of a spill at the Utah Ave. dam. The spilled substance is suspected to be a petroleum-based product and has been sent to a lab for testing. The City of Flint is conducting sampling of the sewer system to trace the source of the spill, but the source has not yet been identified. The spill is currently contained by booms that absorb the contaminants.
As a precaution, the City of Flint advises no fishing and no eating fish from the Flint River until further notice. We are asking residents not to come into contact with the water in any way while this investigation continues.
We want to reiterate that this does not impact drinking water in the City of Flint.
The City of Flint is investigating a large spill of an unknown substance on the Flint River near the Utah Avenue Bridge. The Genesee County hazmat team is on the scene, and all appropriate agencies have been notified. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be working closely with the City of Flint as this investigation continues.
The City of Flint’s municipal water system is not connected to the Flint River, so this does not impact Flint’s drinking water in any way. However, we are advising residents to avoid contact with the Flint River until further notice. We will provide more information as soon as it is available.