A mysterious green liquid found oozing from the side of a Michigan roadway on Friday is in the process of being cleaned after authorities determined it was actually a cancer-causing chemical.
The liquid was spotted in the Detroit suburb of Madison Heights, spilling out into the right lane of eastbound I-696, Michigan State Police said on Twitter.
Authorities said they soon learned that the leak’s origins were a nearby commercial building that had been storing it in the basement, and the liquid made its way to the roadway after running through a drain in the basement that empties onto the road.
Hopefully this will answer some questions we have been getting about I 696 in Madison Heights.— MSP Metro Detroit (@mspmetrodet) December 21, 2019
At about 2 30 PM on 12/20, we were asked by Madison Heights Fire Dispatch to block the right lane of east bound I-696 near Couzens while the fire department cleaned up a liquid spill. pic.twitter.com/WGFy5sYDkk
The chemical is called Hexavalent Chromium, and is known to cause cancer, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Other adverse health effects from the chemical include occupational asthma, eye irritation and damage, perforated eardrums, respiratory irritation, kidney damage, liver damage, pulmonary congestion and edema, upper abdominal pain, nose irritation and damage, respiratory cancer, skin irritation and erosion and discoloration of the teeth.
Police said that once it emptied out onto the roadway, it froze into a “yellow blob.”
“The plan to dispose of the chemical is to bring in a type of excavator, scoop up the frozen waste, and place it into a safe container,” they wrote on Twitter.
Clean-up efforts have been made more difficult, however, due to the fact that the area is home to a lot of clay, and the chemical has been moving onto the clay, Tricia Edwards, an on-scene coordinator with the Environmental Protection Agency, told NBC affiliate WDIV.
Still, the chemical — which is the same one that tainted drinking water in the Oscar-winning movie Erin Brockovich — posed “no imminent risk” to the public as of Sunday afternoon, MILive.com reported.
According to Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller, the liquid would’ve eventually wound up in Lake St. Clair, as that’s where all materials that enter storm drains along the roadway go.
“Our first duty is to protect our local water and we stand ready to assist our federal and state partners to contain this material,” she wrote on Facebook. “The federal EPA and state EGLE, as well as the Madison Heights Fire Department, are on site and my staff is in close communication with them to ensure that this material is captured before it can migrate to the lake.”
The local business responsible for the leak was found to be Electro-Plating Services, whose owner and president Gary Sayers was sentenced to a year in prison for storing hazardous waste without a permit last month, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.
“Rather than having EPS’s hazardous wastes legally transported to a licensed hazardous waste facility, Sayers stored the hazardous waste in numerous drums and other containers, including a pit dug into the ground in the lower level of the EPS building in Madison Heights,” the statement read. “For years, Sayers stonewalled state efforts to get him to legally deal the hazardous wastes.”
The EPA’s Superfund program said it spent $1.5 million cleaning up and disposing of the waste — money that Electro-Plating Services was later ordered to pay back in restitution. The business was shut down in 2016, and a Superfund removal action cleanup initiated by the EPA was finished in January 2018.
PEOPLE was unable to reach Sayers or a representative for comment.