Investigators seek source of Red Run petroleum discharge

By: Brian Louwers, Eric Czarnik | C&G Newspapers | Published May 10, 2013

 Investigators said 20-50 gallons of a petroleum product likely entered the Red Run somewhere in the city of Warren.

Investigators said 20-50 gallons of a petroleum product likely entered the Red Run somewhere in the city of Warren.

Photo by Brian C. Louwers

Sterling Heights and nearby Macomb County communities have taken action to contain and clean up a reported oil spill detected May 2, officials said.

Officials say the source of an apparent petroleum product discharge has affected areas of the Red Run drain in Warren, Sterling Heights and Clinton Township.

According to Dennis Adler, assistant fire chief at the Sterling Heights Fire Department, his department received a call that Thursday evening from a resident who had taken a water sample in a soda bottle and witnessed an oily substance inside.

Adler said Sterling Heights officials then investigated the source, located between Maple Lane and Schoenherr, just north of 14 Mile Road. They found a significant amount of oil being pushed through underwater storm drains, he said.

“We went out there and had a look at it in conjunction with the Warren Fire Department and the Warren water and sewer department,” Adler said. “We ended up laying a series of booms out there to catch the (hazardous) product.”

Booms are floating devices that absorb or catch oil from spills, he said.

On May 4, the Fire Department also heard of a second polluted location, near 16 Mile Road, between Schoenherr and Utica roads. Sterling Heights worked with Clinton Township officials and also collected some oil from a boom, Adler said.

Adler said he couldn’t speculate on the volume of oil or pollutants spilled, but said they saw an area of around 15 feet by 100 feet affected at the second site. He said a cleanup crew took care of both sites May 7, and the booms have since been lifted.

Warren officials say trouble was first reported May 2 in a section of the Red Run drain in Sterling Heights. Warren Fire Commissioner Wilburt “Skip” McAdams said Warren fire crews were sent to the scene of an oily sheen near 14 Mile and Hoover that day.

The investigation is a collaborative effort among local police and firefighters, employees at Warren’s Waste Water Treatment Plant and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Although the source of the discharge remained undetermined May 6, McAdams said the material was apparently discharged somewhere within the city of Warren.

A media release from Warren Mayor Jim Fouts’ office said a 20-50 gallon oil spill was discovered.

“Samples were taken for analysis, both independently and by the DEQ,” McAdams said. “We have no indication that it was a municipal release, and actually wastewater has been ruled out as a source of the contamination. This was either an illegal hookup or an intentional dumping somewhere in Warren.”

Reach the Sterling Heights Fire Department at (586) 446-2950. Anyone with information about the incident can contact the Warren Police Department at (586) 574-4700.