Metroparks along Huron River closed after chemical leak from Wixom factory

A chemical spill has shut down one of the busiest Metro Parks in Southeast Michigan to visitors as regulators work to better understand the extent of the problem.

The leak of a cancer-causing chemical from a nearby manufacturing plant in Wixom prompted officials to close Kensington Metropark to visitors Tuesday and again on Wednesday. It's an inconvenience for beach goers but a necessary precaution, officials say. 

"I'm a little bummed," said John Wethington, who planned a trip to the popular park Wednesday. 

"This is my first time here and the beach is not open," said Kristen Reest. Instead, she said she'd be going to Turtle Cove further along the river. "They have an amazing splash pad."

An uncharacteristic sight on a hot August day, but the beach's closure is key to public health. Amy McMillan, the director of the Huron-Clinton Metroparks, said that regulators needed more information about the leak of hexavalent chromium into the river. 

Regulators from the state were notified Monday that several thousand gallons of the carcinogen were released into the river by Tribar Manufacturing. The spill could have started as early as Saturday morning. 

Related: Yellow substance seeping onto I-696 identified as hexavelent chromium

It is believed that much of the chemical had made its way through the treatment plant in the sewer by the time the release was discovered.

"It was news to us," McMillan said after hearing of the spill Tuesday. "The beach was packed. There were a bunch of people in the water. We sent our staff down and told people to come on out of the water."

The spill is enough to prompt officials to ask residents to avoid all contact or ingesting of water from the Huron River. 

The areas of concern include Island Lake Recreation Area to Kensington Metro Park, through HUbbell Pond and the Proud Lake Recreation Area. 

Hexavalent Chromium - the same material found in the green ooze spotted flowing from a Madison Heights mettalurgy facility - can wreak havoc on the body if inhaled or ingested. 

Huron River chemical spill: What is hexavalent chromium?

"If you live in the area, and people haven’t heard about it yet. I would provably pass the message along but take whatever they tell you seriously," said Dr. Gjon Dushaj, of Beaumont Health. "Once you’re exposed to it, it’s a little too late."

The beach's closure will remain in effect Thursday as the investigation continues. Environmental monitors say there is no timetable for how long access will be shut off.