DNR honored after investigation revealed Flint chemical company illegally dumped 47M gallons of toxic liquid

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources was honored Monday for an investigation that revealed that a Flint company had dumped millions of gallons of harmful liquid into the sewer system.

Oil Chem illegally disposed of more than 47 million gallons of leachate that it was receiving from landfills over eight years. That sewer where it was being dumped flows into the Flint River, where drinking water was taken in 2014 and 2015. 

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, leachate is formed when rainwater filters through wastes placed in a landfill. When this liquid comes in contact with buried wastes, it draws out chemicals or constituents from those wastes.

The investigation began in 2015 when DNR Det. Jan Erlandson received a tip from an employee at the Flint Wastewater Treatment Plant that Oil Chem may have been illegally dumping the leachate.

Oil Chem, a global company that specializes in the formulation and custom blending of metalworking lubricants, industrial cleaning chemicals, and maintenance oils, was not permitted to accept leachate or to discharge any polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) waste.

The investigation found that the owner of Oil Chem, Robert Massey, authorized the acceptance of leachate from eight landfills from 2007 to 2015. One of those dumps, People’s Landfill in Saginaw County, contained PCB waste.

In May, Massey was sentenced to a year in prison after signing a plea agreement. 

Oil Chem paid a civil fine of $250,000 to the City of Flint and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy revoked the company’s waste hauler license.

"The Michigan DNR Environmental Investigations Section would like to thank the EPA Criminal Investigations Division, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s Materials Management and Water Resource divisions and Michigan State Police for their assistance with this criminal investigation," said Lt. Vence Woods, DNR Environmental Investigation Section supervisor.

DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler and Woods accepted the 2021 Chief David Cameron Leadership in Environmental Crimes Award at the International Association of Chiefs of Police annual conference.