Flat Rock residents give earful to City Council over Ford gas leak evacuation situation

Flat Rock residents sounded off Tuesday night at a City Council meeting regarding last week's gas leak into the sewer system from the Ford Assembly Plant - but they said they aren't getting the answers they need.

One question that was answered was about the drinking water - but Flat Rock Mayor Mark Hammond said that system is entirely separate from the sewer system. He added that the drinking water was not impacted by the gas leak.

"Is someone going to hold (Ford) accountable and make them be accountable, that's what I want to know," said one resident at the meeting - as applause broke out. "Who is going to do that?"

As a result of the gas leak, there have been hundreds of precautionary evacuations of residents. 

The mayor and councilmembers answered what questions they could during the meeting. No one from Ford Motor Company or the EPA were there to address the many concerns of residents. 

"We have people looking for answers out there," said resident Aurora Kuta. "I feel like we are leaving more confused. I told my husband I am going to go in and when I walk out I want to feel like I just got baptized. I did not feel that today. I felt more confused than when I walked in."

"Ford should be 100 percent accountable for it and not the taxpayers," said Justin Kuta. "And that's just how I feel - and I am sure I speak for everybody else."

There are still small amounts of a highly flammable liquid called benzine in Flat Rock's sanitary sewer system after a Ford storage tank leaked roughly 1,400 gallons of fuel in it last week. 

Ford has since plugged the leak, and applied a firefighting foam in the line to overwhelm those benzine fumes. 

"Coupled with that, city firefighters have been flushing the system," said Jill Greenberg of Michigan EGLE - Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. "It eliminated the flammable hazard portion, although trace amounts of benzine are still in the sanitary sewer system."

Officials announced the evacuation of more than a thousand homes in two impacted areas. It is unclear when evacuees will get the green light to return to their homes. 

"That is all I want, is for somebody to say you are going to be out of your house for three months," said one resident at the meeting. "Fine, I can plan that. But tell me something and not kick the can down the road and I'm living at my in-laws, because the hotel I got is too damn far from my inlaws and my kids' activities."

Ford paid for residents to stay at area hotels and provided gift cards to cover the costs of other expenses - but some say they are falling through the cracks. 

"So I checked in yesterday and they said you get free meals," said resident Rose Ruber at the council meeting. "Two free meals for dinner, and two for breakfast … and Ford is paying. Today I get the meals and they said ‘No, Ford took it back.’ They aren't paying for the meals."

The mayor told the public to call 211 to get hotel vouchers and gift cards for food. But residents at the meeting said they are not getting the help they need when they call that number.

A Ford spokesperson said they understood the council meeting was that it would just address traditional city business. 

Ford does plan to be at the virtual town hall Wednesday night about the gas leak. The city said also invited to participate will be EGLE, the EPA and the state's health department to field the many questions from residents.