Flint, MI — Officials are sharing updates on a petroleum-based spill reported on the Flint River on the evening of June 29, 2023.

The spill was announced at roughly 11:30 p.m. on Thursday night at which time the City of Flint notified residents the Genesee County hazmat team was onsite.

Since then, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) has determined the substance is “petroleum-based” and has worked alongside the city and other responders, which include Michigan Spill and the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department, to address it.

EGLE spokesperson Jill Greenberg noted that as of around 4:30 p.m. on Friday, June 30, crews had been able to place booms, or absorbent barriers, at three locations along the river.

An unknown substance flows in a creek that feeds into the Flint River from a drainage pipe near the Utah Avenue Bridge on Friday, June 30, 2023. (Michael Indriolo | Flint Beat)

The first is at the outfall point of the spill, which has been identified as a sewer drain in Whaley Park on Flint’s north side.

The second, Greenberg told Flint Beat, is at the nearby Utah Dam, and the third is further downriver at Hamilton Avenue Bridge. Through testing, they said, it was determined that the contamination was present at the outfall location, somewhat at the Utah Dam, and none was detected at Hamilton.

“It’s contained, and the spill is not ongoing,” Greenberg said, noting that things can “still shift quickly.”

They added that early estimates place the contamination at roughly 200-300 gallons.

The city of Flint is leading the investigation into the source of the spill, which city communications director Caitie O’Neill said is still unknown.

“The City is scoping and sampling the sewer system to find the source,” she wrote in an email to Flint Beat, later adding that the results of sampling are expected in roughly two weeks.

For now, though, she reiterated that the City is asking residents to keep away from the river for their own safety while more information is gathered.

“As a precaution, the City of Flint advises no fishing and no eating fish from the Flint River until further notice,” she wrote. “We are asking residents not to come into contact with the water in any way while this investigation continues. We want to reiterate that this does not impact drinking water in the City of Flint.”

Greenberg said that EGLE and Michigan Spill teams will be monitoring the newly-placed booms through the weekend, as well, but deferred to the city for any further questions on the origin of the spill.

“What I will tell you is each spill is unique,” Greenberg said. “And any unauthorized discharge to a Michigan waterway is unacceptable.”

Thursday’s spill is the second major spill reported on the Flint River in just over a year. On June 15, 2022 an “oil-like substance” was found on the river, later determined to originate from Lockhart Chemical Company, and resulting in legal action against the chemical manufacturer.

Lockhart subsequently filed for bankruptcy before the end of the year.

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....