Yellow ooze leaking onto I-696 identified as chemical featured in 'Erin Brockovich'

Posted at 3:04 PM, Dec 21, 2019
and last updated 2020-01-01 14:13:06-05

MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WXYZ) — Did you see the yellow ooze seeping onto I-696 in Madison Heights Friday?

Michigan State Police have identified the substance as a cancerous chemical called Hexavalent chromium.

The chemical was made famous in the 2000 movie "Erin Brockovich," starring Julia Roberts. Brockovich filed a case against PG&E in 1993, claiming that the drinking water in Hinkley, California was contaminated with the chemical.

The drainage shut down the right lane and right shoulder on eastbound I-696 at Couzens in Madison Heights Friday afternoon. Around 2:30 p.m., Madison Height Fire Dispatch asked state troopers block off freeway lanes while crews cleaned up the liquid spill.

Investigators later discovered the leak was coming from a commercial building on East 10 Mile Road. Troopers say the Hexavalent chromium ran from the building's basement, "down into the ground and found its way through a drain which empties onto eastbound I-696."

Once the chemical surfaced out of the drain, it froze into a yellow blob, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Macomb County Public Works engineers and staff worked with state and federal agencies to monitor the then bright green substance. While the spill took place outside Macomb County, any liquid that entered storm drains along I-696 eventually traveled to Lake St. Clair, officials advised.

"Pollution knows no county or city boundaries. Our first duty is to protect our local water and we stand ready to assist our federal and state partners to contain this material," said Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice S. Miller. "The federal EPA and state EGLE, as well as the Madison Heights Fire Department, are on site and my staff is in close communication with them to ensure that this material is captured before it can migrate to the lake."

The chemical is currently being tested by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with results expected on Saturday.

"Our number one priority is protect and preserve the water quality in our magnificent Great Lakes," Miller said.

Macomb County Public Works operates a 24-hour hotline that you can use to report pollution in local drains or waterways. Call at (877) 679-4337.