Ford has moved to halt production at its Mustang plant in Michigan days after state officials identified the facility as the source of gas leaks into various sewer systems, forcing several evacuations in the area.
Ford spokesperson T.R. Reid told the Detroit Free Press that production would be suspended at the company’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant, explaining, "We're not going to prioritize building vehicles this week.”
"There are higher priorities right now,” he added, noting that the automaker was working to help local residents who had evacuated, including by covering hotel costs, meals and personal items.
"People are being affected. Lives are being disrupted and we've got an obligation to try and help," Reid said, adding that some of those who evacuated were Ford employees, according to the Free Press.
Jill Greenberg, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, told the local news outlet Tuesday that Ford had plugged the leak after an estimated 1,400 gallons of gasoline were released.
Bob Holycross, vice president of sustainability, environment and safety engineering for Ford, confirmed Friday evening that on Wednesday the company “discovered what originally looked to be a relatively small leak in a pipe that carries gasoline used to fuel vehicles built at the plant," located about 20 miles south of the company’s headquarters in Dearborn.
"We shut down the fuel pipe, called in experts to remove gas from a containment tank and the primary storage tank, and notified officials of what we found,” he said.
Holycross noted that while officials initially “believed then that the leak was contained to our property,” the company “determined that the scale of the fuel leak was much larger, and that Ford is the likely source of the problem in Flat Rock, for which we apologize."
Reid said the cause of the leak was not immediately clear, but that the company was working to quickly investigate the source to ensure a similar incident does not happen again.
The Free Press reported Tuesday that Ford has committed itself to pledging $1 million to benefit Flat Rock residents affected by the leak of vapors that included benzene, a highly flammable, colorless chemical.
The leaks prompted Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans to declare a state of emergency for Flat Rock on Thursday. Michigan Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerGovernors brace for 2022 after year in pandemic spotlight Protesters crash former Detroit police chief's gubernatorial announcement event Former Detroit police chief launching gubernatorial campaign vs. Whitmer next week MORE (D) later issued emergency orders for the city, as well as Wayne and Monroe counties.
Whitmer said in a statement at the time that her office was “working closely with local officials and emergency crews to investigate the source of these fumes and protect the safety of residents in the area.”
I've declared a state of emergency for the City of Flat Rock and Wayne and Monroe counties. pic.twitter.com/0JO6MuJXDL— Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer) September 3, 2021
The Hill has reached out to Ford for comment.