Metro Detroit shopping plaza evacuated after potentially hazardous chemicals discovered

FRANKLIN, Mich. (WXYZ) - "It was very strong...definitely had an odor." That’s how Lauren Slutsky described the smell she says she endured for two years.

Between 2013 and 2015, she owned a kid’s clothing shop at Franklin Village Plaza in Franklin, the same place that last week was discovered to have a vapor intrusion.

A vapor intrusion happens because of chemicals that are spilled, leaked or dumped and not cleaned up.

This plaza used to be the site of a gas station and a dry cleaner between the 1950s and 70s.

Kim Etheridge of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says they believe that’s the culprit.

"The level of PCE at which you need to take immediate action was 80. Some of the readings were around 600," said Etheridge.

High levels of PCE, along with another chemical referred to as TCE were both found.

And while specialists were on the job to repair it, they found an underground tank with unknown, potentially hazardous chemicals that a crew is out testing today.

Slutsky wants to know why all of this wasn’t discovered sooner.

"We didn’t know about it either that long ago. We didn’t know what we didn’t know," Etheridge said.

The testing had simply not been done. It’s expensive, she told 7 Action News, and requires the securing of proper funding, which can take time.

But what about the health impact? An Oakland county health division doctor told 7 Action News that short term exposure has no long term health impacts. 

But for those exposed at a low level over the course of months or years are at a higher risk color vision loss and changes in mood and memory when it comes to PCE.

Exposure to both can cause certain types of cancer and birth defects, but in all cases, any impact will vary based on the person.

The MDEQ says it’ll take 48 hours to identify the chemicals in that tank. The closure at Franklin Plaza will remain in effect until it’s determined that there is no danger.

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