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Federal and State environmental crews working to mitigate danger after Flat Rock gas leak

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Thousands of Flat Rock residents remain under an evacuation order following last week’s gasoline leak into the city’s sewer system. 

State environmental crews have begun flushing the sewer with water. Jill Greenberg, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, said lines are being flushed to end the risk to residents of the city about 20 miles south of Detroit. 

“At this point, the flammable hazard from the unleaded gas has been mitigated, and right now it’s just flushing the rest of that gas through the system," she said. "It’s at trace levels at this point. We’re still pushing it through.”

Greenberg said flushing the sewer has no impact on drinking water or the environment.

“The drinking water is municipal. It’s separate and contained away from sanitary sewer, so there’s not a concern. Additionally, with all this flushing, that water has to go somewhere. It’s going to a wastewater treatment plants where it’s treated,” she said.

About 1,400 gallons of gas leaked from an underground storage tank at Ford’s Flat Rock assembly plant last week. The automaker is on the hook for cleanup costs, EGLE said.

Ford on Wednesday discovered “what originally looked to be a relatively small leak in a pipe that carries gasoline used to fuel vehicles built at the plant,” said Bob Holycross, the company's vice president of sustainability, environment and safety engineering, according to the Associated Press. But on Friday, the company “determined that the scale of the fuel leak was much larger, and that Ford is the likely source of the problem in Flat Rock, for which we apologize,” he said.

EGLE and the federal Environmental Protection Agency continue to oversee Ford as the company investigates how gasoline entered the sanitary sewer, and the investigation into how the leak occurred is ongoing. It’s not clear when residents who live near the plant will be allowed back into their homes.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report.