Wayne County, Melvindale, Melvindale Foaming Sewer Area

Updated: September 26, 2019Melvindale Foaming Sewer Area map


On August 2, 2018, Western Wayne Hazmat Response Team (WWHRT) responded to an incident at Schaefer Highway, approximately 0.30 mile north of the I-75 overpass.  Foam was reportedly flowing up out of a sewer manhole, down an embankment and along Schaefer Highway where it began to break down and enter the sanitary sewer system.  The sanitary sewer discharges to the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) Waste Water Treatment Plant.  At the time of the incident, the foam was believed to be biological in nature based on observations made by the WWHRT. 

Since this combined sewer system discharges into GLWA’s Waste Water Treatment Plant, it is GLWA, not the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), that is the entity responsible to work with parties to eliminate discharges to their system. EGLE is responsible for discharges to waters of the state.

  • On August 6, 2018, the foam appeared again in the same area.EGLE and WWHRT tracked the source of the foam to a newly constructed asphalt parking lot (approximately 25+ acres in size) owned by Norfolk Southern Railroad located upgradient of the sewer and Schaefer Highway.Upon inspecting the catch basins in the parking lot, foam was observed being produced.A sample of the foam was collected by WWHRT to analyze for PFAS.
  • On September 26, 2018, data was received from Merit Labs.The analytical report identified the following PFAS compounds in the sample:
    • PFOA - 9,000 ppt
    • PFOS - 729,000 ppt
  • Norfolk Southern was contacted by EGLE staff and was provided the analytical data.They agreed to have a vac truck on-site during rain events to intercept foam leaving the sewer and entering Schaefer Highway, and to develop a work plan to address mitigation of the foam and source area.
  • EGLE contacted Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) for assistance in examining asphalt mixtures and potential PFAS sources that may be attributed to the Melvindale incident. MDOT did not identify any asphalt mixtures that use PFAS.
  • The GLWA issued a Violation Notice to Norfolk Southern on November 30, 2018.In response, Norfolk Southern conducted sampling and determined the source was not their parking lot but the PFAS was coming onsite from a previously unknown storm sewer pipe from the property to the west owned by Marathon Petroleum.
  • On December 20, 2018, GLWA issued a Violation Notice to Marathon Petroleum, stating that they were to attend a conference on January 29, 2019, to show the purpose and use of the storm sewer, provide data to characterize PFAS in the stormwater, and provide plans for eliminating future discharges.
  • Norfolk Southern’s Violation Notice is still in effect until they identify the actions taken to decontaminate the area and infrastructure, and demonstrate that future releases will be effectively reduced or eliminated.
  • On July 19, 2019, GLWA presented their current investigation findings to EGLE staff.  GLWA identified two potential upstream sources of PFAS, Marathon Petroleum and GLE Scrap Metal.  Marathon Petroleum has had historic training and testing with AFFF.  In 2018 GLE Scrap Metal had a fire where AFFF was used during the firefighting activities.
  • On August 12, 2019, EGLE staff assisted the GLWA source investigation by collecting PFAS storm water samples at various locations upstream of the Schaefer Highway discharge.  These samples should help identify the source of the PFAS discharge.  EGLE is still waiting for the sample results.  The map below illustrates where the samples were collected on site (click or tap the map to expand).
    Melvindale Foaming Sewer Map August 12 2019 PFOS PFOA Results
  • On September 11, 2019 sample results were received from the August 12, 2019 sampling. Results strongly suggest that both the Marathon Petroleum property and the GLE property have PFAS contamination that is likely influencing downstream storm water.
  • On September 18, 2019 EGLE staff had a conference call with GLWA staff to review the August 12, 2019 sampling results.
Sampling Results from August 12, 2019
Sample Site PFOS PFOA Total PFAS
Ditch #1 2,900 170 9,086
Ditch #2 1,000 41 3,083
GLE Sump 710 320 14,796
Marathon Ditch 3,400 170 10,059
Marathon Ditch (duplicate sample) 3,400 150 10,226


  • On September 24, 2019 EGLE staff met with GLWA and Marathon Petroleum staff to discuss the Department’s findings. Marathon presented the findings from their own internal investigation.