A milky substance was reported in Burr Relief Drain No. 2 in Sterling Heights April 18.

A milky substance was reported in Burr Relief Drain No. 2 in Sterling Heights April 18.

Photo provided by Dan Heaton, Macomb County Public Works Office


Sterling Heights drain pollution identified as concrete washout

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published April 19, 2019

Macomb County officials say whoever is responsible for dumping concrete washout into the county’s water will have to pay for the cleanup bill.

Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller gave a press conference the morning of April 19 at her office in Clinton Township. She said a hiker discovered the spill of a milky substance in Sterling Heights April 18.

Officials said the spill was found in Burr Relief Drain No. 2, which is located east of Mound Road, south of 18 Mile Road, at an industrial site in Sterling Heights.

“Usually when we see this type of a thing, it’s almost always evidence of some type of concrete washout — so something from a concrete site, maybe a concrete business that has not been performing their environmental due diligence properly,” Miller said.

“And we’re about 100% certain that that’s what this is. This is a concrete washout.”

According to a county flyer, concrete washout water is a highly alkaline byproduct of cement work.

“This washwater contains toxic metals and has a pH value near 12, making it very caustic and corrosive,” the flyer reads. “The safe pH value range for freshwater is 6.5 to 9.”

According to Macomb County officials, water from Burr Relief Drain No. 2 flows into the Plumbrook Drain, eventually into the Red Run and ultimately into Lake St. Clair, which Miller said is a source for drinking water.

Miller said the county has been working with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Sterling Heights to stop the spill from getting worse. A county press release states that workers put out booms and a curtain to contain the spill.

Miller said there are a couple of concrete companies in the area, and officials aren’t 100% sure who’s responsible for the pollution. An investigation is pending so the responsible party can be billed for the cleanup, which she estimated would be in the thousands of dollars. She added that additional fines could come from the MDEQ.

Anyone who knows more about this incident should call the Macomb County Public Works Office at (586) 469-5325.