Washtenaw Avenue auto shop accused of dumping suspected gasoline into sewer
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
Officials say an Ypsilanti Township business owner could face criminal charges after his employees were caught dumping suspected gasoline into a sewer on business's property.
Police and township officials also found Auto 1 Complete Car Care violating a range of township codes and will ask a judge to issue a restraining order ordering all illegal activity halted and the property brought up to code.
Mike Radzik, director of the township’s office of community standards, said a patron leaving a neighboring restaurant smelled an overwhelming gasoline odor while in the parking lot.
The patron investigated to determine the source and witnessed several employees dumping what is suspected to be gasoline into a sewer at 2555 Washtenaw Ave. The patron called 911 and a Washtenaw County Sheriff’s deputy was dispatched, Radzik said.
Upon arrival, the deputy witnessed an employee dumping the suspected gasoline into the sewer, Radzik said.
The deputy then contacted township and the Washtenaw County Water Resources Office, which sent out an agent to investigate.
Radzik said it was determined that the water flows through the storm basin to nearby Northlawn Street where it is released into the road. From there, the topography leads it to a county drain.
The agency took samples of the water to identify the chemicals that were dumped into the sewer. Washtenaw County Sheriff’s deputy Sgt. Geoffrey Fox said no charges will be sent to the prosecutor’s office stemming from the April 22 incident until police have the test results.
"Obviously there are environmental laws to protect us and laws about gasoline or other chemicals being dumped into storm sewer that leads to creek or lakes," Township Attorney Doug Winters said. "It contaminates water; it affects fish and other wildlife; and it's such an irresponsible and outrageous act. That’s why the environmental laws should be enforced, and that's why (Ypsilanti-area landlord) David Kircher got five years for dumping waste into the Huron River."
Township ordinance officials said the business also was breaking zoning laws by selling used cars on the property and making major auto repairs. The area is zoned B3 commercial, which only allows for minor automotive repairs like oil changes or brake repairs.
Radzik said officials found the property littered with auto parts and debris; the roof is in need of repair; some kind of chemical appears to be leaking from the building and into the storm sewer; there are several electrical and plumbing hazards; windows and doors are broken; and mold is growing on the ceiling.
“The building is in serious disrepair,” Radzik said.
On April 27, workers were making improvements to the building. Used cars were still being sold in the parking lot. The business owner, Jeff Murrillo, declined to comment because of the ongoing investigation. The township also has named the property’s owner in its motion with the court.
“Usually you suspect someone is dumping something, but you never can determine who,” Winters said. “Here you actually have two people - the citizen and sheriff's department deputy - who were alert and caught them dumping gasoline twice.”
Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter. Contact the AnnArbor.com news desk at firstname.lastname@example.org.