Oil pipeline spill threatens Lake Michigan

A contractor uses a suction hose to clean oil from the Kalamazoo River, Wednesday -Photo/The Kalamazoo Gazette, Jonathon Gruenke
A contractor uses a suction hose to clean oil from the Kalamazoo River, Wednesday -Photo/The Kalamazoo Gazette, Jonathon Gruenke

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On Monday, July 26, a 30 inch pipeline belonging to Enbridge, Inc., a Canadian-based company, burst near Marshall, Michigan, spilling hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil into Talmadge Creek, which feeds the Kalamazoo River, a tributary of Lake Michigan.
 
As of Thursday, July 29, the spill has affected over 30 miles of the Kalamazoo River, killing fish and wildlife and coating the banks of the river.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has assumed control of response efforts, estimates that 1 million gallons of crude oil could have leaked at the spill site, located between Marshall and Battle Creek, Mich.
 
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granhom sharply criticized the response efforts by pipeline owner Enbridge and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday, saying the resources being marshaled were “wholly inadequate,” and she called on the federal government to step up its response to the spill before the oil reaches Lake Michigan, about 80 miles downstream, where it could cause what she called a “tragedy of historic proportions.”
 
EPA announced on Thursday that it has requested the U.S. Coast Guard make $2 million available to fund the federal response to the spill, and says it could request additional funding if necessary.  EPA says the federal government intends to seek full reimbursement from pipeline owner Enbridge, Inc., based in Calgary, Alberta.
 
According to a report from the Associated Press (AP), Enbridge was warned by government regulators in January that its corrosion monitoring in the pipeline was inadequate and did not comply with federal regulations.  AP also reports that Enbridge-related companies have been cited in recent years for other spills in the region, including two spills in 2007 that released about 200,000 gallons of crude in northern Wisconsin and a spill at an oil terminal located two miles from Lake Superior that released 189,000 gallons.  Most of that spill was contained, according to the AP.
 
At a press briefing on Thursday in Battle Creek, Michigan, officials from Enbridge and the EPA said that about 200 people were working to contain and recover the oil, using vacuum trucks and containment booms, and that the number of workers was expected to rise to about 400 in the coming days.  For more information about the EPA’s response to the Enbridge-Kalamazoo River Spill, go to epa.gov/enbridgespill.
 

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