Flint, MI— Officials say they have gathered nearly “three times” more of an oil-based substance in the Flint River than collected on June 16, a day after the spill was discovered.

At a June 17, 2022 press conference, Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson said a response team of state and local officials has now gathered nearly “three times” the amount of the oil-based material that was first found in the Flint River.

“We’re very cautious right now of giving too much information out that we can’t validate,” Swanson during the press conference at Fire Station 5 in Flint, Mich.

Swanson was accompanied by Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley, officials from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, and Michigan Spill Response.

“I will tell you that yesterday’s number, we said 1,600 (gallons), but it was closer to 2,000,” Swanson said. “I don’t have an ability to confirm, but by talking to the people that are collecting, that number has gone up almost three times today, maybe even up to 5,000 gallons. So we’re getting a significant progress on the collection.”

Swanson said the source of the spill, which was discovered on June 15, is “still happening” but that the leaked material is being contained to the initial area where the spill was found while clean-up and further investigation activities continue.

Lockhart Chemical Company was identified by a Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy representative at a June 16 press conference as “a potential source” of the spill.

Swanson would not speculate on possible charges against the company should the ongoing investigation prove them responsible and called the company “nothing but convenient and forthright” in supporting the investigation thus far.

The city of Flint issued a cease and desist order on June 16 around 10 a.m. barring Lockhart’s operations while officials try to identify both the source of the continuing leak as well as what it is.

Officials from EGLE said they hope to identify the substance within the next few days.

“We’re anticipating receiving results very soon,” said David Wierzbicki, an incident manager for EGLE.

Wierzbicki said EGLE had collected samples from both the “outfall” area (the location where the oil-based material is seeping into the Flint River) and an area on Lockhart’s plant property on James P. Cole Boulevard.

“(We’ll) look at that comparison and try to see whether they match up or not,” he said.

In the meantime, a public health order has closed the Flint River from Stepping Stone Falls to Willard Road. The order requires that people avoid physical contact with and/or eating fish from the Flint River in that area until an all-clear is issued.

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....

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