Hazardous green ooze found seeping onto Michigan highway, causing road closures

The metal, hexavalent chromium, was made famous by the movie "Erin Brockovich."

December 22, 2019, 1:16 PM

Michigan officials closed portions of a highway over the weekend after a hazardous greenish-yellow liquid was found oozing onto the roadway from a barrier.

Michigan State Police troopers were asked to block off the right lane of Interstate 696 in Madison Heights, about 13 mile north of Detroit, on Friday afternoon so the local fire department could clean up the spill.

Officials later discovered that a commercial business nearby had been leaking the chemical hexavalent chromium, which ran from the basement of the building into the ground and exited through the drain that empties onto the highway, police said.

Once the substance came up through the drain, it froze into a yellow blob, police said, citing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The metal is known to cause cancer and targets the respiratory system, kidneys, liver, skin and eyes, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It is typically added to steel to increase hardenability and corrosion resistance, according to the administration.

Workers disposed of the frozen waste by scooping it up in an excavator and placing it in a safe container, police said. The cleanup was expected to take all weekend.

"Please use caution as there will be workers in the area. And a yellow blob," police wrote on Twitter.

The metal gained notoriety after the release of the Oscar-winning 2000 drama "Erin Brockovich," in which Julia Roberts played the real-life woman who discovered a cover-up involving contaminated water in California.

Health officials placed a priority on protecting and preserving the quality of the water in the Great Lakes region, Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller said in a statement.