Flint, MI—Lockhart Chemical Company’s bankruptcy trustee has addressed some of the company’s environmental law violations, though other infringements remain ongoing, state officials say.
Lockhart, which was deemed responsible for a summer 2022 chemical spill into the Flint River, filed for bankruptcy this past October.
Since then, Trustee Natalie Lutz Cardiello has made some progress on the violation notices issued to Lockhart by the the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), according to Jill Greenberg, an EGLE spokesperson.
“The trustee has taken some actions to address the violation notices, including removing some materials and reducing the amount of water stored on site,” Greenberg wrote in an email. “However, some of the issues remain outstanding.”
Those remaining issues are related to managing stormwater and wastewater at the facility, as well as the ongoing use of the tunnel system, Greenberg said. EGLE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are continuing to work with Cardiello to ensure compliance with state and federal law, she added.
Cardiello did not respond to Flint Beat’s requests for comment by press time.
Currently, Greenberg said the priority lies in removing chemicals and waste on site, and a consulting firm has submitted plans to sell and dispose of these materials.
Greenberg told Flint Beat the spill’s outfall, or the location where discharge is seeping into the river, is under monitoring on weekdays. Additionally, devices to contain the leak, known as booms, are still at the outfall’s location.
“Discharges at the outfall are minimal and the boom is functioning appropriately,” she said.
In December 2022, the Genesee County Health Department lifted a no-contact order for the Flint River between Stepping Stone Falls and Leith Street. Even so, local concerns persist about the impacts of the spill and the ongoing discharge at the outfall.
Denise Trabbic-Pointer is a retired chemical engineer providing technical advice to the Flint River Watershed Coalition (FRWC), a nonprofit organization that aims to protect the Flint River ecosystem.
Based on data reported after the leak, Trabbic-Pointer noted that Lockhart’s spill included materials that pose short-term and long-term health risks to the public.
“Until we know what the current state is, we don’t know if those hazards still exist,” she added.
Skin irritation, impaired balance and changes in sensation are among the potential effects of exposure to the spill’s organic solvents, Trabbic-Pointer explained.
Further, she said other chemicals found initially, like vinyl chloride, 1,4-dioxane, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) as well as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are all linked with increased risk of cancer and potential damage to the liver, kidney and respiratory system.
FRWC has asked EGLE to perform further biological and chemical testing at multiple sites beginning with Stepping Stone Falls and downstream of the falls.
Jennifer Raymond, the executive director of FRWC, hopes that more testing would help address the uncertainties that remain more than half a year after the initial spill.
“Robust and current data is needed to assess and screen for chemicals of concern that were previously identified, and the extent to which they are currently present,” Raymond wrote in an email. “Our hope is that additional monitoring will indicate if chemicals of concern are still present in levels known to have an adverse impact on human and/or ecosystem health, and where those chemicals of concern are found.”
With the operating season for Kayak Flint, an FRWC project that rents out kayaks and paddling guides on the Flint River, beginning in May, Raymond said the organization is exploring alternative routes to ensure the safety of its staff and kayakers.
Last season, FRWC chose to move its annual ‘Flotilla’ event on-land and limited kayaking trips to upstream of the spill and to local lakes given the ongoing environmental concerns.
“We will consider returning to impacted stretches when additional testing work is completed and indicates that we can safely do so,” Raymond said.