Flat Rock town hall update leaves more than 1,000 evacuated residents in holding pattern

A leak at the Ford Assembly Plant in Flat Rock has more than 1,000 people living nearby still out of their homes as the state and the EPA work to determine when the air and water is deemed completely safe again, and they can return home.

During a virtual town hall meeting, a representative from Ford issued an apology and a promise to make things right after a fuel leak was discovered on Tuesday, August 31st.

The source of that leak was found a day later a gas pipeline on Ford Assembly’s property.

"We did see, through an access pit, that there was a crack in the pipe," said Bob Holycross, Ford Motor Company.

By then the damage had been done, explosive gas had made its way to the city’s sewer system. Ford said a rough estimation of leaked gas is 1,400 gallons.

"The leak, the gasoline that came out of it was more than we anticipated," Holycross said. "That was when we confirmed as well, that it is the likely source of it."

A map provided by the Environmental Protection Agency shows what happened next.

"The red line is the actual main  - so that is where the water flows and that is where we believe the gasoline or the product would have flowed," said Tricia Edwards, EPA. "The green lines are actually showing where the vapors can travel."

Once this was determined, "The line that had the crack in it, we shut that tank off," Holycross said.

And a voluntary evacuation was ordered for those who lived in the area where vapors were still present. Some are still living in hotels and getting meal cards on Ford’s dime.

All of which led to the question when can those evacuated come home?

"It all hinges on that gasoline getting pushed out of the sanitary sewer," said Kory Groetsch, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The sewers themselves are being scrubbed clean. At the same time, special vapor measuring equipment has been brought in to test individual houses -  which could prove to be timely.

"I know everyone wants (to ask) 'Kory just give me a date (they can return home), when are you going to get this done,'" Groetsch said. "I totally get it. But we’re not going to guess, we need the results and we need your help to get into your houses, where we need the data," said Groetsch.

The EPA and the city will not put a timeline on when this will be resolved but they will start scheduling the screening of their homes this week.