Flint, MI—Nearly three months after the discovery of Lockhart Chemical Company’s spill along the Flint River, the no-contact order issued by the Genesee County Health Department (GCHD) remains in place. 

Since late June, GCHD’s amended health order has advised people to avoid physical contact, fishing or water sports on the Flint River from Stepping Stone Falls to Leith Street. The time when GCHD will rescind the order depends on results from testing and the progress of clean-up efforts. Until then, the public health department also urges the public to refrain from consuming fish from the closed section of the river.

Jill Greenberg, a spokesperson at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE), said it remains unclear when cleanup operations will be complete. 

As of Aug. 19, 2022, nearly 19,800 gallons of leaked substances had been collected from the outfall and disposed of. The outfall is located on West Boulevard Drive, east of Dort Highway.

Further, close to 70,000 gallons of spilled materials were collected from Lockhart’s trench/tunnel system as of Aug. 19, 2022. By then, nearly 290,700 gallons of wastewater from Lockhart restarting its boilers had been collected and disposed of.

Greenberg said sampling at the outfall has been carried out as early as the day of the spill and most recently on Aug. 18, 2022. Currently, EGLE is waiting for some of the results from the most recent sample, she noted. Greenberg added in an email that “we are not aware of any long-term detrimental effects to the ecosystem or to human health as a result of the discharge.” 

Booms are in place at the outfall located on West Boulevard Drive, east of Dort Highway. (Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy)

EGLE’s director Liesl Clark acknowledged that the Flint River is a linchpin of the local community. But the department is airing on the side of caution and ensuring that it fully understands the characteristics of the leaked substances, she explained.

“I know that the Flint River is something that’s really core to Flint residents and that it’s something that people feel really deeply [for],” Clark told reporters in late August. “There’s a lot of interest in touching the river, being in the river, kayaking in the river. So this spill really affected people.” 

After the spill in mid-June, GCHD’s health order advised the public to avoid contact in the Flint River from Stepping Stone Falls to Wilard Road. In late June, the public health department narrowed its no-contact order as the spill had been contained to the river area between Stepping Stone Falls and Leith Street.

By mid-August, EGLE had cited Lockhart for violations of its operation permit, and the company had been cited for violations prior the spill in June. Lockhart did not respond to Flint Beat’s request for comment.

Greenberg said there remains a small amount of leakage at the outfall, and a series of booms that are still in place appears to be successfully containing the discharges. “A minimal discharge can still be observed at the outfall,” she wrote. “It is being monitored daily and is vacuumed out as necessary.”

Nicholas Chan

Nicholas is Flint Beat’s public health and education reporter. He joins the team as he graduates from Santa Clara University, Calif. Nicholas has previously reported on dementia and brain health, as...

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