TIMELINE OF EVENTS
It was in 1967 that Alfred F. Sayers, the father of Gary Sayers, established Burger-Sayers, Inc. with Robert A. Burger and established their business at 959 East Ten Mile Road in Madison Heights, Michigan. Later that year they changed the name of the business to Electro-Plating Service, Inc.
In 1980, Robert Burger signed his half of the business over to Alfred Sayers, giving Sayers full ownership of the business. Soon after, Gary began running the business full-time.
The First Warning
In 1980, the US EPA started tracking Hazardous Waste sites across the U.S. and ElectroPlating Services, Inc. was listed as a site that produced and stored hazardous waste.
Ten years later, in July of 1990, ElectroPlating Services, Inc. was first reported to the State of Michigan via it's Pollution Emergency Alert Hotline. The informer stated that Sayers dumped chemicals in pits in his basement including an unlined pit that was dug into the ground. Nothing was done by the state at this time to investigate the hotline report.
The Michigan DNR Takes Action
It was only until a second call made to the Emergency Alert Hotline in 1993 when the State of Michigan took any action. The Michigan DNR then began working with Gary Sayers to make improvements on the site. Later that November, Alfred signed the business over to his son Gary. Over the next three years the Michigan DNR tried to work with Gary, yet the required improvements failed to be achieved.
The MDEQ's Begins Writing Violations
In December 1996 the newly established Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) sent Sayers and EPS Inc. a Letter of Warning over its mishandling of hazardous materials. Three more letters followed in October 2004, January 2005 and June 2005.
Fifteen years after that first phone call, in late 2005, Sayers was taken to court after hazardous waste was found at this Detroit, Michigan property at 5900 Commonwealth Street. In November that year, he accepted a plea agreement that forced him to dispose all illegal material by March 1, 2006.
The Letters Continue
Sayers was routinely reported upon, sent letters and issued warnings.
In July 2009 Sayers was issued an Enforcement Notice which cited all previous Letters of Warning.
In May 2016, the Madison Heights Fire Department again notified the MDEQ and alleged that EPS Inc. was mismanaging hazardous materials, hazardous wastes, and unidentified chemicals. The MDEQ arrived a day later to do an abbreviated inspection and then issued a Violation Notice on June 6, 2016.
Consent Order Agreed Upon
On April 13, 2010 the MDEQ and Sayers entered into a consent order in which EPS agreed not to store hazardous waste more than 90 days, to analyze all waste generated for hazardous characteristics, to maintain all waste characterization analysis documents, and to properly label all containers with hazardous waste.
City Inspection Sparks Concern
Six years later, in May 2016, the City of Madison Heights revoked occupancy for EPS due to fire code and ordinance violations. The City notified the MDEQ who immediately performed an inspection. The MDEQ sent Sayers and EPS a violation notice in June 2016, after an inspection the month before showed he was not following his promises.
After not receiving a formal response to the June 2016 violation notice, EGLE and fire department staff re-entered the building on Nov. 15, 2016.
The Sited Is Deemed A Hazard
"An estimated 5,000 containers of known and potential hazardous waste, hazardous chemicals and unknown waste are present at the facility, which has unrestricted access," EGLE Senior Environmental Quality Analyst Alexandra Clark wrote in a Dec. 16, 2016, briefing on the situation.
"A residential neighborhood is within 500 feet of the facility and Interstate 696 is immediately adjacent to the facility, resulting in the potential to expose residents and passersby in the event of a fire, release, or curious children entering the facility."
It was also mentioned that I-696 had over 350,000 vehicles travelling the interstate, as well as the site location had multiple schools, day care centers and senior centers located within a 1-mile radius of the building.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) declared the conditions at the property "an imminent and substantial hazard to public health" that December. EGLE ordered the company to cease and desist operations, and the city fire department put the facility on a 24-hour "fire watch."
The Clean-Up Begins
In December, 2016, the U.S. EPA was summoned to the property. In January 2017, the state environment department (EGLE) issued EPS a cease and desist order. The U.S. EPA then instituted one-year-long "time critical removal action" at EPS which included testing, relabeling and removing more than 5,000 containers of hazardous waste, and pumping 37,000 gallons of hexavalent chromium-contaminated water from a pit Sayers had dug in the basement of the facility. The pit was backfilled and compacted with crushed gravel.
After that clean-up, however, it was determined that the site had no threat to drinking water, and was denied full Superfund status.
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors took Gary Sayers to court on criminal charges. In November 2019, He was sentenced to one year of prison and a $1.4 million fine.
The City of Madison Heights is currently suing Sayers for a demolition order of the EPS property. Attorneys for the city say it makes no sense to allow the buildings to remain standing, because it would cost far more than they are worth to repair them.
The Ooze Emerges
On December 20 2019, a passerby driving on Interstate-696 noticed growndwater contaminated by industrial waste, or what has been called "green ooze", seeping from the wall of the freeway.
Immediately following, ....
Gary Sayers reported to a minimum security prison in Morgantown, West Virginiaon January 2, 2020 to serve his one-year sentence.
In the second week of January of 2020, the Detroit Fire Department discovered potentially hazardous liquids in the basement of his property at 5900 Commonwealth Street.