AVON LAKE — A spill of a chemical paint primer from Ford Motor Co.’s Ohio Assembly Plant has been flowing into Lake Erie at Miller Road Park since Saturday.
Avon Lake Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Moore said today that the leak of e-coat, an electrically-charged paint primer used to prevent corrosion, isn’t considered overly toxic to humans and isn’t a water pollutant. He said the material would be irritating if it were to come into contact with human skin.
Moore said at this point the chemical spill isn’t considered a health hazard to humans because there is no public beach at Miller Road Park. He said the city’s water plant has been notified to monitor it’s water intake, but he doesn’t expect that to be a problem because the water at the area tends to flow west, while the water plant is to the east of the spill.
He said the spill was detected by the plant on Saturday afternoon, but workers didn’t realize until late Saturday or early Sunday that it was flowing into the lake.
“They thought it was all contained in the plant,” he said.
He said Ford began efforts to contain and clean-up the water-soluble solution on Sunday. He said because of the choppy waters off the park absorbent booms couldn’t be used to collect the chemical.
Instead, he said, cleanup workers began collecting as much of the flow as they could at various points along a storm water sewer line, including at Miller Road Park, along Walker Road and inside the plant.
The system containing the chemical was being drained as the plant prepared for a planned shutdown when the spill occurred, Moore he said.
Mike Settles, a spokesman for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said about 5,000 gallons of the chemical, composed of three parts deionized water and one par e-coat, discharged from a 50,000-gallon holding tank on Ford’s property because of a valve failure.
He said an unknown quantity of the chemical made it into the lake, but the rest was being collected along the storm sewer. He said an estimated 60,000 gallons of water has been collected for treatment and disposal.
Settles also estimated that the cleanup could take several days to be completed.
Moore said crews are trying to get as much of the work done as possible before rains arrive this afternoon.
“Our concern is how much can they get before the rains come,” he said.
Fishermen TracyJohnson of Cleveland and Keith McKenney of Bedford said they were still worried about the impact of the spill as they stood in the spray on a fishing pier at the park this morning fishing rods in hand.
“It’s bad enough, we don’t need this,” Johnson said. “It’s our lake, we’ve just got to treat her like she's supposed to be treated.”
Avon Lake Mayor Greg Zilka said after a briefing with representatives of the company, environmental officials and others that Ford is working to contain and mitigate the damage.
“We have great faith that Ford is on top of it and the Coast Guard is monitoring it as is the city of Avon Lake,” he said.
A Ford representative at the scene referred questions to a corporate spokeswoman, who has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Read Tuesday’s Chronicle for more on this story.