Flint River Chemical Spill – What We Know

This post will be updated as information is available. Last update 9/20/2022. On June 15th, 2022, a fisherman alerted authorities to an oily substance contaminating the Flint River just north of Dort Hwy in the city of Flint. Local, state, and federal authorities responded, and testing tied the spill to Lockhart Chemical Co, located on […]

oil spill booms Flint River outfall 001

This post will be updated as information is available. Last update 9/20/2022.

On June 15th, 2022, a fisherman alerted authorities to an oily substance contaminating the Flint River just north of Dort Hwy in the city of Flint. Local, state, and federal authorities responded, and testing tied the spill to Lockhart Chemical Co, located on James P Cole Blvd. To date, more than 20,000 gallons of waste has spilled into the Flint River.

The Lockhart property is drained through storm sewer outfall 001 into the Flint River. The spill was a mix of industrial chemical waste from an underground storage system that was not maintained, causing the chemicals to leach into the soil, and then into the storm drain system. Work is still underway to monitor and test the river, and to ensure no further materials enter the water. This process is ongoing and the information we receive changes regularly. As of the most recent EGLE citation sent to Lockhart on August 18th, Lockhart was still allowing discharge of petroleum products and white residuals into the groundwater and/or the Flint River, and had not voluntarily complied with EGLE’s previous orders to prevent further spills.

From the August 19th MLive article: “State records show that concerns about the property date back decades, including a report by the city more than 18 years ago that indicated groundwater contaminated with volatile organic compounds was infiltrating into a city sewer from the Lockhart property, located at 4302 James P. Cole Boulevard.”

Lockhart Chemical resumed operations at its facility with a modified cease and desist order and updated wastewater discharge permit from the City of Flint, including increased testing requirements. They are not, however, permitted by the state to discharge into the stormwater system, or use their underground waste storage system. EGLE found out Lockhart had in fact resumed using the underground storage system on September 12th.

The state Attorney General, in cooperation with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department, delivered an order on September 19th to block Lockhart from using the deteriorated waste storage trench and tunnel system to prevent further discharges to the soil and river. According to MLive, this was the first such action by the state in more than 30 years. The order requires Lockhart to pump its waste into above ground storage tanks until it can be transported off site for disposal. Failure to comply can be met with fines of $25,000 per day.

FRWC and the Genesee County Health Department recommend avoiding eating any fish caught on the Flint River Downstream of Stepping Stone Falls.

At this time, FRWC does not have a full understanding of the impact of this spill on humans or wildlife. Our staff examined the river just after the official no-contact order was lifted, and saw continuing visual evidence of chemical contamination from Grand Traverse St to Mitson Blvd. Because of this, FRWC recommends the public AVOID contact with the Flint River downstream of Stepping Stone Falls in Genesee County, including through the city of Flint, Flushing, and Montrose. Do not kayak, fish, or play in this part of the river until further notice. Do not eat any fish caught on the Flint River downstream of Stepping Stone Falls.

FRWC is working with independent experts to evaluate the chemical testing results obtained from the state and assess our operations going forward. As of right now, all FRWC activities on the Flint River downstream of Stepping Stone Falls are suspended until further notice. FRWC is also working on an ongoing monitoring plan to continue testing the river for effects of the chemicals. We will update when we have more information.

Snapping Turtle on the Flint River 6-28-2022

Impacts on the Flint River Ecosystem

Look and you will find rich biodiversity along the Flint River. Many of these species help inform us that the Flint River supports a healthy ecosystem.

  • River otters in Lapeer County
  • Eagles, heron, and osprey all along the river, including in downtown Flint
  • Muskrat, beaver, turtle, and deer at every turn

Contamination like the Lockhart spill is a direct threat to the wildlife and people that rely on the river for home, food, and play. We are still unsure how this spill has or will affect wildlife. We reiterate – Please DO NOT eat fish caught in the Flint River downstream of Stepping Stone Falls until further notice.

We must work to ensure that our environmental laws are enforced. If you see something wrong with the river (or any body of water), say something immediately by calling the Pollution Environmental Alert System (PEAS) at 1-800-292-4706.

Media Coverage:

(oldest to newest)

10/6/2021 MLive: Past Lockhart Discharge

6/15/2022 MLive: Thousands of Gallons of Oil-based Material Spilled

6/16/2022 MLive: Lockhart Likely Source

6/16-7/6/2022 EPA Site Profile & Updates

6/17/2022 MLive: Search Continues for Location of Breach

6/18/2022 MLive: No Contact Order Remains in Place

6/24/2022 MLive: Promising Lead on Breach

6/27/2022 MLive: Health Order Narrowed

7/7/2022 WNEM 5: Main Breach Identified

7/8/2022 MLive: Chemical Spill Cancels Flotilla

7/28/2022 NBC 25: Lockhart Had Previous Violations

8/19/2022 MLive: Lockhart Cited Again, State Says Operations Have Not Improved

9/12/2022: Flint Beat: Clean Up, Investigation Efforts Ongoing

9/19/2022 ABC 12: State Takes Action After Lockhart Chemical Spill

9/19/2022: EGLE: Order to Lockhart Chemical

 

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