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Crews working to clean-up Flint River oil spill, spread is contained

This is a photo of a body of water.  (Source: Pexels/stock image)
This is a photo of a body of water. (Source: Pexels/stock image)((Source: Pexels/stock image))
Published: Jun. 15, 2022 at 4:19 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WNEM) - The city of Flint announced Wednesday a combination of departments are working to clean a recent spill in the Flint River.

The Flint Fire Department and Flint Water Department in partnership with Genesee County HAZMAT Team, Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division, and the Clio Fire Department are conducting a clean-up operation of the Flint River, the City said. The substance has not yet been identified, and residents are advised to avoid the area of the river north of Hamilton Street.

“We have personnel on-site from several partner agencies and the situation is contained,” said Flint Fire Chief Raymond Barton. “There is no threat to the City’s drinking water supply.”

“We are working to clean the substance from the river,” said Mayor Sheldon Neely. “I want to assure residents that Flint’s drinking water supply was not threatened. Thank you to all our partner organizations for your immediate response.”

“As partners, our Genesee County HAZMAT and emergency management teams are working closely with City of Flint officials and EGLE to remediate the situation, and ensure the proper steps are being taken to address environmental impacts,” said Genesee County Commissioners Board Chair Domonique Clemons.

A fisherman on the Flint River tipped authorities off to a spill of what they are calling a petroleum-based substance.

“The spill was probably at the time a small spill, but by the time it was noticed, it had got upriver and down river,” said Genesee County Hazardous Material Response team member Richard Cummings.

About two hours after the tip, it was stopped and slowed, but not before up to 1,000 gallons made it into the river.

“It’s always disturbing to hear something like environmental danger to our ecosystem. Whether it be plant life, vegetation, or animals. But it could have been so much worse if the Flint firefighters had not gotten to that particular scene and made the first initial containment,” Neeley said.

Cummings said the spread is contained now, at points beyond where they initially thought the substance had reached.

“The problem is, it had gotten released further north than what we were informed of. So, we have stopped it in Montrose Township at barber park and we also have put a secondary boom at birch run road up in Saginaw County to hope it doesn’t get that far,” Cummings said.

The focus is now on the cleanup.

“We have hazmat teams on location, we have deployed hard and soft boom. We also have deployed boats and skimmers to clean it up and vac trucks to suck out the petroleum base,” Cummings said.

The source of this spill is under investigation.