Authorities investigating after more than 1K gallons of oil-like material spills into Flint River

By Kendall Keys and James Paxson

    FLINT, Michigan (WNEM) -- The clean up of an unidentified substance that spilled into the Flint River continues.

Officials believe more than 1,000 gallons of an oil-like material drained into the river.

“This is nothing to take lightly,” said Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson.

The oil-like material spread all the way to Montrose Township about 20 miles away.

Containment, clean up and an investigation comes with a steep price tag.

“We’re in the seven figures already. When you talk about the expertise that is standing here with us and the amount of equipment and the time, it’s a significant cost,” Swanson said.

Who pays the price depends on where the evidence leads investigators.

“As history has shown, when culpability and responsibility is identified, there is a consequence for that. We’re going to find the source, and those responsible, whether it’s an accident or not,” Swanson said.

The source at this point is unidentified.

Jill Greenberg, a representative with the state department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, says the agency has its eye on a business she says has a history of violations.

“EGLE is investigating Lockhart Chemical Company in Flint.”

Lockhart produces metalworking fluid additives.

Greenberg said the company is above a sewer that channels liquids to an outfall that eventually discharges into the river.

“EGLE and the EPA took multiple samples of the sheen on the Flint River and sent them to a lab for characterization,” Swanson said.

Swanson said Lockhart is cooperating with investigators and has provided samples from its containments.

Those samples will be compared to the samples collected from the river.

Although the results are pending, Swanson said he has been in talks with the prosecutor’s office.

Mayor Sheldon Neeley said he has placed a cease and desist on Lockhart.

“We’re not going to put health and public safety in harm’s way because of a business. If they don’t do good business in this community, they don’t deserve to do business. We will look at all levels of culpability and will hold them accountable with our partners,” Neeley said.

Swanson says they expect to have testing results on Friday.

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