“They will leave here and go to the hotel. Flat Rock Residents Come Together to Help Their Own
FLAT ROCK, Mich. (WXYZ) – It has been a hectic week and a half for the people of Flat Rock. More than 300 of them are living in hotels after a fuel spill made staying home unsafe.
Officials say a Ford assembly plant is to blame and the company has stepped in to try to help the displaced.
For the second day in a row, volunteers settled in at the local high school to distribute gift cards. Meanwhile, state and federal agencies are still testing the area for benzene, the main chemical of concern. It can be odorless, which makes it all the more dangerous.
Over half of the volunteers who hand out gift cards are evacuees from the Flat Rock community, even though their lives have been uprooted, they still find time to help.
“It’s very emotional. You know, these are my people, these are the people I grew up with,” said Mark Hammond, Mayor of Flat Rock, “generations of people”.
Hammond hasn’t slept much since news of a 1,400 gallon fuel spill in Flat Rock. He represents the interests of nearly 10,000 people and many of them cannot even return home.
Right now, municipal, state and federal agencies are trying to ensure that their basic needs are met.
“That’s why we’re standing in the parking lot of a ball field because we know we can move a lot of people here and meet their needs for those incidentals,” Hammond said.
Courtesy of Ford, residents were given hotel vouchers and target gift cards for food.
“It was a good idea for them to consider families and know it’s a concern and potentially disruptive,” said Jessean Sutton, a resident of Flat Rock.
Sutton and her family chose not to evacuate, like many others living in Zones 1 and 2. She says choosing to stay was a measured decision.
“I told my husband about it,” Sutton said, “he read and talked to other people who were a little closer to the situation.”
“It’s really just a judgment,” she added.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is testing 1,100 homes for toxic levels of benzene. Stacey Richardson is happy to speak hers in the clear.
“They got there before I had to leave for work so I could go to work and have the peace of mind that my pets were safe and my house was fine,” said Richardson.
There are still hundreds of residents in limbo wondering if their homes will be next.
Hammond says there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen when it comes to alleviating this situation, which means they don’t get the information right away.
“We will answer these questions when we have the answers from them on our web page and on our Facebook page,” said Hammond, “any questions residents have, we take them into account.”
Meanwhile, residents are trying to come together to help each other through what could be weeks and even months of uncertainty.
“They’re going to leave here and go to a hotel, but they serve the other residents who need it,” Hammon said, “that’s the kind of community we have.”
The gift card pickup will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow near the baseball field at Flat Rock High.
Officials say there will also be another town hall at the Flat Rock Community Center on Tuesday. They say it’s tentatively set for 7 p.m. and state and federal agencies have been invited to attend.