Buried fuel tank found near chemical spill on Michigan river

FLAT ROCK, Mich. (AP) — A massive, possibly century-old underground fuel oil tank was found near a southeastern Michigan river’s tributary that had a chemical-type sheen on its surface.

A company that owns the property southwest of Detroit in Flat Rock found the tank, WXYZ-TV reported March 3.

Flat Rock Metal said in a news release that the company and the state had no record of the buried storage tank, which has an estimated capacity of about 10,000 gallons (37,854 liters).

“When we found out about the possibility of oil in the river, we committed to solving that mystery,” the company said. “What we discovered was an underground fuel oil storage tank beneath the property where we have been located since the 1980s.”

“Our company did not and could not have created any issues with this hidden tank,” the statement continued. “Now, all we can do is address the tank and contain and dispose of any fuel oil that was in it.”

Flat Rock Metal said a Ford Motor Co. factory once stood on the property. The Dearborn-based automaker said it didn’t have any information about the tank.

“We’re hearing this for the first time and don’t know whether any of it’s accurate. Ford’s involvement with this site ended more than 70 years ago,” Ford said in a statement.

The tank was discovered after an angler noticed what looked and smelled like fuel in the river and contacted authorities on Feb. 21.

The Flat Rock Fire Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy worked to contain the spill and began searching for the source of the contamination.

Flat Rock Mayor Mark Hammond described it in an email to the Detroit Free Press as “a heavy oily sheen in the backwaters of the Huron River.”

The river contamination came after fuel fumes at flammable levels in the city’s sanitary sewer system prompted evacuations of portions of Flat Rock for more than two weeks in September.

The source of that fuel spill was determined to be the Ford Flat Rock Assembly Plant’s system for fueling manufactured vehicles.

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