FLAT ROCK, Mich. (WXYZ) — The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Wayne County Health Department are recommending people living in part of Flat Rock evacuate their homes in the wake of a gasoline spill that is believed to have originated at Ford's Flat Rock Assembly Plant.
“We urge Michiganders in the affected areas to take swift action and evacuate their homes,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS in a news release. “You may not be able to see or smell the vapors that could put your health at risk, and we recommend everyone in the affected area consider relocating until further notice and we can confirm it is safe to return to your homes.”
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The recommended evacuation zone is the part of Flat Rock bounded by I-75 to the east, Gibraltar Road to the north, Cahill Road to the west and Woodruff Road to the south. They are being advised to remain away from their homes until further notice.
“We don’t believe there is any imminent danger to residents at this time, however, we are acting out of an abundance of caution at this time," MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said during a press conference on Sunday.
If you need assistance with evacuation and/or relocation, please call Flat Rock’s hotline at 734-782-2455, ext. 6. At issue are the fumes from the leak, which is believed to have come from a storage tank at the plant.
The chemical that is of concern is benzene, which can be harmful to humans. Measurements taken of air inside building and sewer lines have found levels of Volatile Organic Compounds, which benzene is considered, above health protective and/or explosive levels.
The following information is from MDHHS:
Benzene is a flammable and colorless liquid with a sweet odor used to make other chemicals. It is found in gasoline, crude oil and tobacco smoke. Breathing in higher levels of benzene can cause people to feel sleepy or dizzy, have headaches, vomit or have a rapid heart rate. Both long- and short-term exposure to benzene can increase risks of cancer, cause blood problems, and harm the immune system. Contact your healthcare provider if you have symptoms or health concerns, or if you believe you may have been exposed.
According to the state, they have measured benzene levels over 6 parts per billion in sanitary sewers and in some homes, but they haven't measured every home.
While the evacuation is limited to the above area, a larger area is believed to have been affected by the leak. That area is bounded by Gibraltar Road to the north, Sheeks Road to the west, East Huron River Drive to the south, and Tamarack Road to the East, as well as buildings along Woodruff between East Huron River Drive and Cahill Road.
People living in that area are being advised to leave their homes if they are concerned about potential exposure to the chemicals that may have traveled to that area.
At this time, officials say it is unclear which homes may be at risk. They also say it's possible some residents in the areas named as being impacted may not have been exposed.