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Electro-Plating Services / I-696 Incident

Three people in yellow vests with sampling equipment on the ESP site
Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

Electro-Plating Services / I-696 Incident

The content on this page is no longer being updated, but Michigan EGLE is preserving it as a historical resource. 

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This page summarizes what the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) knows to date about the seepage of toxic materials onto the shoulder of I-696 interstate in Madison Heights on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. It will also chronicle cleanup actions and potential next steps to more permanently remediate the contamination. This page will be updated as necessary. Additional information is available on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s Electro-Plating Services - I696 Release Site incident page.

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 a highway embankment with orange fencing sectioning off the cleanup area with truck in foreground


Release of bright green liquid that seeped onto the shoulder of I-696 east of the Couzens off ramp in Madison Heights Dec. 20.

Likely source:

Electro-Plating Services (EPS) located at 945 E. 10 Mile, Madison Heights.

Suspected material:

Based on site history, EGLE believes the substance to be groundwater contaminated with hexavalent chromium. The USEPA took water samples and results are expected by Friday, Dec. 27.

Threat to public health/environment:

There is no immediate threat to air quality or drinking water from this release. There are no nearby drinking water wells that would be affected from contaminated groundwater. The shoulder of I-696 has been closed to prevent people from contacting or driving through the material.

The storm drains on I-696 lead to the Clinton River and eventually Lake St. Clair. This release likely contributed contaminants to the storm sewer system before it was discovered. Because of the potential for release to our rivers and lakes, local, state, and federal agencies took immediate action to contain this contaminated water and prevent future releases.

History of site:

EPS was issued a Cease and Desist order from EGLE (then the Department of Environmental Quality) in December 2016 due to extreme mismanagement of hazardous waste that posed an immediate and substantial threat to the community. Throughout 2017, the USEPA conducted a cleanup of the site, removing the hazardous chemicals and pumping contaminated liquid from an earthen pit in the basement of the facility. This clean-up addressed the immediate hazards on the site but was not intended to address all environmental impacts. In November 2019, EPS owner Gary Sayers was convicted of operating an unlicensed hazardous waste storage facility, sentenced to one year in federal prison, and ordered to repay the USEPA $1.5 million for clean-up costs.


State, federal and local agencies responding to the incident include: EGLE, MDOT, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), Michigan State Police (MSP), the USEPA, Oakland County Emergency Management, Macomb County and the city of Madison Heights.

Cleanup efforts:

Beginning on Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, responders removed the visible material from the shoulder of I-696 and vacuumed out the storm water catch basins on the freeway. The collected water was put in a portable tank staged at the EPS site. Water entering the catch basins is now clear, but this water will continue to be collected for off-site disposal until sampling shows it to be clean.

The basement pit at EPS was partially filled with gravel after the previous USEPA cleanup. When responders entered the building Friday night, the gravel was saturated with green water and there was 2-3 inches of frozen water on top of the gravel. A sump was dug into the gravel and a float-operated pump was installed. The water is being pumped into a 20,000-gallon portable tank on site. USEPA contractors will continue to remove water from the basement at EPS while a long-term remedy is developed. This removal is expected to reduce further contamination from migrating offsite. The expressway and surrounding area will continue to be monitored to ensure the effectiveness of this strategy.

The release from EPS has contaminated a portion of the embankment on I-696. Soil samples have been collected from the embankment and the results are expected by the end of the week. Additional clean-up work will be needed to prevent contaminated water from continuing to seep out of the embankment and entering the storm sewer. As an interim measure, absorbent material has been piled in front of the seep area and will be monitored and replaced regularly.

MDOT will continue to assess the need for shoulder/lane/ramp closures to ensure public safety and the safety of clean-up operations. Additional physical measures (barriers and snow fence) will be put in place to keep motorists out of the impacted area along the shoulder. The City of Madison Heights is in litigation with the property owner seeking to demolish the EPS building.

EGLE staff conducting sampling on the ESP site

What's next?

The current clean-up actions are a temporary remedy to a larger problem. A long-term remedy to address contaminated soil and groundwater is necessary. EPS is responsible for the contamination. In the coming weeks, EGLE along with local, state and federal agencies will be working together to develop a plan to address the site in the long term.

In the interim, USEPA will continue pumping contaminated water from the basement pit; develop a strategy to address the embankment contamination and continue to monitor the embankment and storm sewers to ensure there is no release to the expressway or to waterways.

Past Updates

  • 6:00 PM - Community Update Meeting for Electro-Plating Services-I696 Site, Madison Heights  

    On January 26, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) hosted a Community Update Meeting for the Electro-Plating Services-I696 Site in Madison Heights Michigan. The USEPA and EGLE provided an update on the status of the environmental investigation and response. The agencies also presented information on planned building demolition work at the site. Following the presentations, community members were provided an opportunity to ask questions of state and federal agency personnel.

  • 6:00 PM - Community Update Meeting for Electro-Plating Services-I696 Site, Madison Heights 

    On August 11, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) hosted a Community Update Meeting for the Electro-Plating Services-I696 Site in Madison Heights Michigan. The USEPA and EGLE provided an update on the status of the environmental investigation and response. The agencies also presented information on the in-place treatment process selected for the EPS site. Following the presentations, community members were provided an opportunity to ask questions of state and federal agency personnel.

  • In June 2020, the USEPA and EGLE announced a plan to manage groundwater contamination at the former EPS facility. After evaluating several options, EPA and EGLE selected in-situ, or in-place, treatment as the remedy for groundwater contamination at the site. Treatment chemicals that degrade contaminants are injected into the subsurface soil between the EPS building and the service drive, as well as along the top of the I-696 embankment. As groundwater naturally migrates through the soil, it will flow through the injection areas and the contaminants will be treated in place. Once the in-situ plan proves successful, sump pumps at the location will be removed. The plan transitions the site from the immediate response efforts that have been ongoing since December 2019 to a long-term management process that protects residents and natural resources.

    As of Aug. 2, 2020, more than 312,000 gallons of contaminated liquid has been removed from storm drains and from the sump wells.

    Legal proceedings are currently underway to authorize demolition and removal of the EPS building. Only when the building is removed can permanent removal of contaminated soils be undertaken.

  • On Thursday, Jan. 30 contractors began removing contaminated liquid from pits at the Commonwealth Street property in Detroit owned by convicted Electro-Plating Services owner Gary Sayers. Removal is continuing until all liquid has been transported for proper treatment and disposal. The liquid contains heavy metals. It also contains the PFAS compound PFOS slightly above surface water quality standards. No hexavalent chromium was detected. Further investigation will take place on the property.

    On Friday, Jan. 31 Madison Heights city officials reported that tests of the city's drinking water showed no detection of PFAS, nor any contaminants at levels of concern.

    A public informational meeting on the Electro-Plating Services contamination will take place Monday, Feb. 3 from 6-8 p.m. at Madison High School, 915 E. 11 Mile Road. Doors open at 5:30.

  • Preliminary test results from drinking water and groundwater announced today indicate that contamination from the polluted Madison Heights Electro-Plating Services facility are neither impacting drinking water nor moving southward from the site. Details and more news from the emergency response to the contamination in Madison Heights and responses to other properties linked to the company's owner, are in the Jan. 24 press release.

  • Initial soil and water samples from a Sanilac County property owned by convicted polluter Gary Sayers do not indicate that contaminants from his Electro-Plating Services operation were dumped at that site, but the investigation continues. Sampling from liquid in pits at a Sayers' property in Detroit show heavy metals, and PFAS results are pending. More detail and other news in the Jan. 22 press release.

  • A public informational briefing on the Electro-Plating Services emergency response in Madison Heights has been scheduled for Monday, Feb. 3. See details, along with information about new test results, a new interactive map from the EPA and a timeline of state enforcement history in Jan. 17 press release.

  • The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) over the weekend investigated potentially hazardous chemicals discovered at a Detroit property owned by Gary Sayers, who was recently imprisoned for violations of environmental laws at his company, Electro-Plating Services in Madison Heights.

    Detroit Fire Department inspectors discovered suspicious liquids in several pits at the location, 5900 Commonwealth Street, on Friday. Some pits were reportedly empty, and others partially filled with liquid - some of which resembled the green contamination from Sayers' Madison Heights facility. EGLE personnel responded, securing the property and sourcing contractors over the weekend. On Monday, EGLE expects to test the liquids in the various pits to determine the types of waste/contaminants to ensure appropriate and proper disposal.

    The area is served by municipal water and EGLE is not aware of any wells that could be subject to contamination. The site is several miles from municipal intakes in the Detroit River. Once the pits are emptied, EGLE can determine if the pits have leaked into the environment and assess next steps.

    In other developments over the weekend:

    • The right lane of eastbound I-696 at the Couzens exit - which had been closed since Dec. 20 to facilitate work on contaminants were found leaking onto the highway shoulder - was reopened Sunday afternoon. The shoulder, exit ramp and service drive will continue to be closed indefinitely and motorists will still need to use caution driving past the barriers on the shoulder.
    • More than 4,000 gallons of contaminated groundwater were recovered by two sump pumps operating in and near the Madison Heights facility during the heavy rainstorms over the weekend. Since the sump pumps were installed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) around Christmas, they have recovered more than 20,000 of contaminated liquid.
    • Measures including a glycol heater and insulation of pipes were taken to protect the Madison Heights pumping operation from freezing temperatures.

    Soil and groundwater samples taken from dozens of locations near the Madison Heights site will be evaluated the coming weeks to help determine the nature and extent of contamination.

    Samples from storm sewers and from Bear Creek - where the sewer water emerges and becomes surface water - were taken by EGLE last week and results, including for PFAS, should be available this week.

  • EGLE is launching a new, formal preliminary assessment of the Electro-Plating Services site in Madison Heights for possible inclusion in the federal Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Superfund program officials announced Friday. In other news, the closed lane of eastbound I-696 will be re-opened next week, an innovative temporary solution to help reduce contaminants in the storm sewers will be put in place. Details in the EGLE press release issued on Jan 10.

  • The scope of testing is expanding today with several additional soil and groundwater samples being collected from the highway embankment. They are in addition to more than two dozen samples taken last week from around the Electro-Plating Services building. More testing is also taking place on the contaminated water collected by a sump well in the basement of the facility. That liquid has been tested for the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Results from the tests are expected later this week, or possibly early next week.

    The site has also been made more secure with the addition of fencing that encloses the entire Electro-Plating Services building and grounds.

  • Groundwater and soil samples were taken today from the Electro-Plating Services contamination site in Madison Heights as part of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initial site characterization. Additionally, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) on Thursday sampled water at the point where the affected sewer system surfaces at Bear Creek to determine levels of contaminants entering the creek. Additional information, including the volumes of contaminated water collected by sump wells at the site and comments from EGLE Director Liesl Clark are included in the Jan. 3 press release issued today. Additionally, EPA PowerPoint slides with photographs and information about the testing are available.

  • Soil borings and groundwater sampling by contractors for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and stormwater testing by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) began Jan. 2, 2020 as part of the USEPA's initial site characterization at the Electro-Plating property. That testing will help determine the levels of contamination in soil and groundwater, how far the contaminants have spread, and their direction of travel.

    More than 25 sites are being sampled in a perimeter around the building, near neighborhood businesses, along 10 Mile Road and on the I-696 service drive.

    Results from that testing are being expedited, but there is no firm time frame for completion. Check back here as we learn more about timelines and eventual results.

  • Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has issued a statement on the contamination coming from the Madison Heights Electro-Plating site calling for stronger enforcement, broad reforms and a formal review of EGLE's pollution inspection procedures. 

    EGLE has also posted answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) concerning the site. 

  • Preliminary test results of soil and water on and near the site of Electro-Plating Services in Madison Heights affirm no risk to drinking water intakes in Lake St. Clair, but high levels of multiple contaminants in the soil and groundwater surrounding the facility. Full data from the testing, performed by the USEPA will be available after a quality control review is complete next week.

    Late next week the USEPA will begin dozens of soil borings as part of an initial site characterization to help determine the extent and levels of contamination.

    View the EGLE press release on the preliminary results.

  • On Christmas Eve day, the USEPA in coordination with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) installed a sump pump in the eastbound I-696 highway embankment where the contaminants from Electro-Plating Services have leached through the soil. Contaminated liquid is being pumped and collected in a frac tank - resembling a semi-trailer truck on the shoulder of the highway. The right lane and shoulder of the highway are closed at the Couzens exit, and protective barriers were to be installed Thursday, Dec. 26. The off ramp to Couzens from eastbound I-696 is also closed. The new sump pump complements one installed last week in the basement of the facility, which is also collecting contaminated liquid. The liquid will be transported for proper disposal. State and federal officials are in discussions to determine what next steps are appropriate to manage risk at the site.