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November 20, 2012

GM says ‘appropriate’ steps taken after chemical release

Biodegradable material entered Tech Center storm sewer Nov. 13

By Brian Louwers
C & G Staff Writer

A broken coupling caused water containing a biodegradable chemical to be released into a storm sewer at the General Motors Technical Center Nov. 13.

Company officials later said in a prepared statement that, “Immediate containment was initiated and all appropriate environmental procedures were followed,” and that preliminary tests found no evidence of harm to wildlife in adjacent waterways, including the Bear Creek and the Red Run.

According to the statement issued by General Motors Co., a construction worker removing soil at one of several project sites on the Tech Center campus, north of 12 Mile between Mound and Van Dyke, caused a coupling on a chilled water line to fail. The resulting discharge of water containing a biodegradable chemical entered the storm sewer on GM property.

The company said the city, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and GM’s own facilities and environmental engineering experts were notified and sent to the site, and that the state had reviewed the company’s containment and clean-up procedures.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts later said the Warren Fire Department was contacted about an hour after 10,000 diluted gallons of propylene glycol were released.

Propylene glycol is a material “generally regarded as safe” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It’s used to prevent water lines from freezing.

GM said in the statement that the MDEQ took water samples in the Bear Creek, which runs through the Tech Center property, and subsequent waterways all the way to Lake St. Clair.

“Based on their preliminary results, they found no decrease in dissolved oxygen and no evidence of a fish kill,” the company said in the statement.

Fouts added that the company acted responsibly and agreed to notify the Warren Fire Department immediately in the future to facilitate a hazardous materials response as quickly as possible.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Brian Louwers at brianlouwers@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1089.