MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WXYZ) — Was a child hired to clean up hazardous waste?
We have told you about the environmental disaster left behind by Gary Sayers. The government is expected to spend millions cleaning up the poisonous pollution around Electro Plating Service in Madison Heights. The pollution made national headlines when drivers saw what they described as "green ooze" flowing from the building onto I-696 near that facility.
Now one mom is sharing a story that will leave you outraged. She claims Gary Sayers hired not only her, but her young son to clean up what she now believes was hazardous waste.
Seven Action News obtained a notice sent by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (which has since been renamed the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy) to Gary Sayers in 2005. It said Sayers had hundreds of drums containing hazardous waste. In some cases they were not labeled. In other cases Sayers told the MDEQ it was not hazardous waste, but the MDEQ disagreed.
Tammy Trzeciak now lives in Harrison, Michigan, which is north of Midland. She says back in 2005 she was working at a gas station Gary Sayers frequented. He heard her talking about how her husband had died in a fire. She was struggling to make enough money to support her three young children. He told her he would hire her and her son. She says she was paid about $10 an hour.
I just spoke to her son. He says he thinks he was 13-years-old, not 12. But either way, he feels he was exploited. Hear from both of them on WXYZ at 6. https://t.co/8cRysMzBH5— Kim Russell WXYZ (@kimrussell7) January 7, 2020
“We were desperate for money. I had three kids. We had no other options. So when this job came up we were all on it. My son was excited to go down there with me. We spent a good year and a half clearing out the Commonwealth building,” said Tammy.
Tammy says at the time her son was about twelve. Her son says to his recollection he started working for Gary Sayers around age thirteen. Either way, he was young. They say Sayers had them clean out a massive tank filled with sludge.
“It was basically a great big pit, a good eight feet, ten feet across, eight to ten feet deep, filled with this black sludge. We don’t know what we were touching. We don’t know what it was. We just knew there were bolts in all this greasy stuff and we had to remove it. We worked day after day after day, my son and I, especially during the summer when he wasn’t in school because it was a help for our family financially,” said Trzeciak.
Trzeciak says Sayers told her they had to do things the way he instructed because it was EPA regulations. She assumed because of that they were complying with the laws. When she saw our stories detailing his many violations she realized he was not honest.
“I am really mad at Gary. I trusted this man. All I wanted to do was work and support my kids… I am terrified because my son has had breathing issues since he was about fourteen now,” she said.
Trzeciak worries that the work she took her son to do made him and her sick. She says Sayers didn’t offer them any protective clothing as they worked, loading the sludge into hundreds of barrels. SShe says Sayers would dump some barrels down the drain and personally take other barrels away in a truck. She says she now thinks it is strange that a waste disposal company didn’t pick them up. She is concerned about what he did with them.
“They could hurt a lot of people,” she said.
Seven Action News spoke to people who live near a rural property Sayers owns in Sanilac County. They described hearing him use what sounded like his excavator on the land in the middle of the night. She hopes investigators thoroughly search the property to ensure he wasn’t hiding his chemicals underground.
Brandon Trzeciak says as a child he looked up to Gary Sayers. Now he is a father to six children. He feels Sayers exploited him in a way he would never want his children exploited.
“Shame on you. He knew what he was doing. He may not have known the exact outcome, but he knew it is was wrong,” said Brandon Trzeciak.
Sayers is currently in federal prison serving a one year sentence for illegally storing hazardous waste.