$$$$$ Experts Discover The Origin Of A ‘Slime’ That’s Spilling Onto A Major Highway

We take a lot of things for granted in our everyday lives: clean water, clean air, and safety. It’s hard to imagine there are people out there who care so little about the people around them that they’d be willing to put those things in jeopardy for a little cash.
One county in Michigan learned this lesson recently. What started as a strange sight on a morning commute quickly escalated into an environmental crisis that swept up the entire state.
It was a seemingly normal day on Michigan’s I-696. Thousands were cramming onto the highway for their morning commute, when people noticed something odd. Some sort of strange substance was pouring out onto the freeway.
When the drivers passed by, they could see it was a bright green slime oozing out from between the barriers and onto the interstate. A passing highway assistance driver noticed and knew immediately he had to call it in.
The Detroit News
Within hours, state officers from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) were on the scene. They hadn’t seen anything quite like this, so they could only guess what the mysterious substance could be.
According to EGLE spokesperson Jill Greenberg, the team determined it was probably hexavalent chromium, a toxic and carcinogenic substance. If it sounds familiar to you, there’s probably a good reason why.
The Detroit News
Hexavalent chromium is the cancer-causing substance featured in the 2000 movie Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts as a legal clerk who discovers that a major corporation has been polluting a small town. Authorities knew they had to act fast.
“It’s a serious situation,” said Greenberg, once EGLE had surveyed the area. “Clearly, this site needs to be cleaned up.” So the team got to work, but it wasn’t easy.
EGLE spent the entire night vacuuming up green slime, but they were in need of serious help, so they called in the fire department. By the next day the ooze situation was under control — but where had it come from, anyway?
When the authorities investigated a commercial building nearby, they found toxic waste being drained in the basement seeped through the ground all the way to the freeway. They had their guy.
The business owner was a man named Gary Sayers, who had already been arrested a year before for operating an illegal waste storage facility. But when they started digging around the building, they couldn’t believe what they found.
Click On Detroit
Giant 55-gallon barrels were scattered all across the lot — one of the now-empty ones had even been tossed in the small creek nearby. Another empty barrel was labeled “trichloroethylene,” a seriously dangerous carcinogen. Inside the building was another story entirely.
Detroit Free Press
Once the team reached the basement, they knew something was off. Hidden beneath the ground, Sayers had dug a large pit that was allowing toxic waste to pool and seep into the ground around the building. They had to act fast.
Once they had scoured the building top-to-bottom, they collected samples and sent them to the lab. They knew there would be some toxic chemicals present, but the tests actually showed one seriously dangerous result.
The results showed the presence of PFAS in the contaminated water. PFAS, known as the “forever chemical,” can cause serious health issues like cancer, liver disease, and hormone malfunction. Something had to be done.
Smart Water Magazine
Authorities moved fast and took Sayers to court. After pleading guilty to to storing hazardous waste without a permit, he now sits in prison in Michigan. But authorities had only just begun to realize the scope of the mess.
WXYZ-TV Detroit
Michigan lawmakers knew they needed some assistance with the massive task they were undertaking, so they called in the Environmental Protection Agency to help with the cleanup. See, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened in Michigan.
Members of the Michigan State House were all too familiar with Michigan’s pollution problems and quickly announced plans to protect residents from contamination. And once the State House had gotten wind of the problem, it continued to escalate.
The story made its way to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s office, which swiftly announced it’d be taking immediate action against Sayers and the company that produced the chemicals. They weren’t going to let them get away with this.
Detroit Free Press
“Any time public health might be compromised, residents and taxpayers expect a fast and effective response from the state with proper communication at all levels of government,” said Representative Shane Hernandez. Others agreed that action had to be taken — fast.
“Unfortunately, we in Michigan know too well the consequences of government inaction when it comes to protecting drinking water,” said one group of lawmakers. They knew they had to take bold action to prevent the crisis from escalating.
The Detroit News
Michigan cities like Flint are very familiar with issues surrounding water pollution. In fact, the entire Great Lakes region has been suffering through contamination crises for decades. In one region, the water even turned bright green.
See, since the late ’90s, Lake Erie has endured a recurring pollution problem thanks to farmland runoff. Chemicals make their way into the lake and create something that sounds like bad news even for the scientific layman — toxic algae blooms.
Essentially, pockets of organisms form from an excess of nutrients — like nitrogen or phosphate — getting dumped into the water. Though an abundance of nutrients usually indicates a good sign, these masses have catastrophic effects on the environment.
Circle of Blue
See, once the microbes in the algae bloom die, they suck up all the oxygen in the water. In turn, all the living creatures depending on that oxygen die. The masses of oxygen-depletion have an appropriately sinister name — dead zones.
EPA
Algae blooms have plagued Toledo, Ohio, residents for years, but in 2014, the situation reached a new low. The city of Toledo announced a 3-day tap water ban because the toxicity had contaminated the drinking water.
This environmental hazard left 110 people sick and still another half million were stuck without safe drinking water. Given that over 11 million people receive their drinking water from Lake Erie, this incident showed the widespread ramifications of toxic blooms. But what could be done?
Joshua Lott / Reuters/ National Geographic
Speaking out and raising voices against the pollutions had earned no action from public officials. So local activists gathered in a bar to hash out their concerns over a few beers. They wracked their brains and finally hatched an outside-the-box solution.
Toledoans For Safe Water / Facebook
They pushed to win Lake Erie legal rights. Markie Miller of the Toledoans for Safe Water led the charge. She explained, “For three days in 2014, we lost access to our drinking water, and we didn’t see any action come out of that. We wanted to do something for ourselves.”
Toledo Blade
The initiative to consider Lake Erie as a legal person marked the first case of Rights of Nature being instituted in the US. Surprisingly, though, it wasn’t unprecedented: other countries have pulled the somewhat unusual card to protect nature.
The Rights of Nature

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