Environmental Issues in the Heat Treating Industry

It is really not that many years ago that potentially dangerous chemicals in the heat treating and surface treating industries were treated in a very cavalier manner. In years gone by it was not uncommon that used quench oils, vapor degreaser chemicals and cleaning agents were routinely dumped “out back”. It is an issue which has come back to haunt many a company and indeed has made some companies virtually unsaleable due to potential liabilities. The infamous “green ooze” story out of Michigan has to be the most egregious case we have ever come across and it is a story which as it turns out has a heat treating element to it. The story started at Electro-Plating Services in Michigan after green ooze was spotted leaking onto a major highway in the state. The latest twist to the story has officials investigating the closed down Commonwealth Heat Treat building which is owned by the same individual who owns Electro-Plating. Commonwealth was a large commercial heat treater in the Detroit area which closed down a number of years ago.

“A Detroit-based property that shares the same owner as the shuttered Electro-Plating Services in Madison Heights is now being investigated for potential hazardous materials, the state said. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy on Friday launched an investigation into the property at 5900 Commonwealth St., the agency said in a statement. It is owned by Gary Sayers, who was recently imprisoned for violations of environmental laws at his Madison Heights company, according to the release.

Detroit Fire Department inspectors identified potentially hazardous liquids at the site, according to the state. These substances were not found on the site when it was inspected in December as part of the probe into contamination that seeped a green ooze onto Interstate 696. EGLE personnel were en route to the site Friday to assess the situation, determine the next steps and ensure the site is properly secured, the agency said. As of 7 p.m., no personnel were on site. Signs on the door from the city fire department and the Department of Building Safety Engineering and Environment warned people to “stay out” and that the building was “condemned and dangerous.”

On Dec. 20, motorists spotted the ooze seeping from a wall on eastbound I-696; Electro-Plating Services, shuttered by the state in December 2016, is right above the site where the yellow-green liquid appeared. Nearly 11,000 gallons of contaminated water have been collected from the former Electro-Plating Services building at 945 E. 10 Mile, EGLE said Friday.  “The owner of the building has dug a pit that was 10-by-10-feet and 5 feet deep in the basement and he was just pouring his contaminants into this earthen hole,” said Jill Greenberg, a spokeswoman for EGLE. “While it was flushed out over time, the contaminants still leached into the soil. There’s holes in the roof where water and snow got in, mixing in with the chemicals and found its way out.”