Unknown fluid draining into Huron River, originating from EMU campus

An unknown liquid was found draining into the Huron River from a pipe originating on Eastern Michigan University’s campus this weekend.

Washtenaw County’s HAZMAT and the Environmental Protection Agency have been collecting and testing the white, oily fluid. The area around the storm drain has been dammed so that none of the substance leaks into the river, and devices called booms have been set up to collect the liquid.

The liquid was present in the underground drains that run beneath the campus and has been traced to the stormwater drain near the Rec/IM building, although the substance may have originated elsewhere in Ypsilanti. The drain, officially known as the Owen Outlet Drain, opens up to the river by the bridge on Forest Avenue,
near Frog Island.

According to Geoff Larcom, director of media relations for EMU, there is no danger to students, staff or faculty on campus and there have been no reported injuries or physical effects from the spill. The university has been playing a role in assisting the HAZMAT team and the EPA, along with the Ypsilanti Fire Department.

“People worked throughout the night to get a handle on it,” Larcom said, adding that the clean-up was “quite a group effort.”

As of Sunday afternoon, the substance was gone, but the teams are still working on identifying it and tracking down its source. The booms will remain in place for a few days in case the substance resurfaces.

Larcom is pleased with the way the situation was handled.
“The response on it was really quick and deep,” he said.

Update: Tests on the substance showed the presence of motor oil or heavy oil.

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