~ Our Spreading Oil Disaster – A Million Gallons In Michigan River

If you thought what happened in the Gulf Oil Spill was an isolated incident or the worst that could happen, you might want to think again.

What would happen if an oil leak/spill hit your community?  Would the response be faster?  The spill contained quicker?  Or clean up handled better?  Would the oil threaten your health and welfare or that of friends and family?  Would it impact your livelihood or the economic survival of your community?

Well, parts of Michigan and possibly the midwest will be finding out the answers to these questions the hard way — up close and personal.  All thanks to a ruptured pipeline near Battle Creek Michigan that leaked, according to EPA, a million plus gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River Sunday night.


A million gallons may not seem a lot when compared to the million barrels of the Gulf spill. But this oil went directly into creek that feed into a major (though not very wide) river and is traveling through populated areas and doesn’t have vast ocean waters to help dilute it.   The AP put the spill size into perspective this way:

An 800,000 gallon spill would be enough to fill 1-gallon jugs lined side by side for nearly 70 miles. It also could fill a walled-in football field, including the end zones, with just under 2 feet of oil.

Its impact on Michigan residents and wildlife are already being felt in both rural and urban communities and threatening water supplies.(via Battle Creek Enquirer)

Besides the noxious fumes coming from the river, health officials already are worried that the oil spill could have lasting health effects. While he said that the site of the spill was a wetland — which has a natural clay barrier that prevents water from seeping too far into the ground — Calhoun County Health Officer Jim Rutherford said there was a concern that the magnitude of the spill could spell trouble for the area’s water supply.

“It’s not going to show up right now, but over time there is a real possibility that it will leach into the water supply,” Rutherford said. “I think it’s inevitable that, with as much as has leaked, that it will get into the water supply.”

Groundwater supplies have not been tested yet because the focus thus far has been on air quality, Rutherford said. EPA officials are planning on setting up a testing facility to gauge the amount of volatile organic compounds in the air as a result of the spill.

The bigger fear is that, if not stopped, the oil could end up reaching Lake Michigan, thereby spreading the threat to wildlife, residents and communities along the shorelines of Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.

( via NYTimes)

State officials here have expressed grave concern over the environmental impact if the spill reaches Lake Michigan, more than 60 miles away. Officials for the Environmental Protection Agency, which is leading the response efforts, said Thursday that they were confident that they could prevent that from happening. [snip]

The cause of the leak was being investigated. The pipeline remained closed and cannot be reopened without approval from federal regulators.

Local emergency officials said Thursday that they would evacuate 30 more families from homes near the spill site because of health risks. They also asked residents of about 100 homes along the river to use bottled water as a precautionary measure while they tested local water sources.

Wildlife officials said that they had opened a rehabilitation center for animals and that Canada geese, swans and turtles had already been rescued.

Sad to say it all sounds eerily familiar. As we saw with the BP spill, politicians are vowing to make Enbridge responsible and pay for the clean up. Enbridge’s president and CEO Patrick D. Daniel has promised “We are going to do what it takes to make this right.”  There are conflicting reports on the amount of the spill – Enbridge estimates 800,000 gallons, Fed’s estimate is over a million gallons. Either way Governor Granholm is calling Enbridge’s and the governments response “wholly inadequate.”

And surprise, surprise – the federal government knew there were problems with this pipeline. ( via AP)

A Canadian company whose pipeline leaked hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into a Michigan river was warned by government regulators in January that its monitoring of corrosion in the pipeline was insufficient.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and HazardousMaterials Safety Administration told Enbridge Energy Partners Chairman Terry McGill in a Jan. 21 letter that its corrosion monitoring in Line 6B, the line that ruptured, did not comply with federal regulations.

According to the warning, Enbridge was implementing an alternate way of monitoring corrosion in the pipeline, and had detailed to regulators the steps it was taking to track corrosion in the meantime.

But the agency warned the company in the letter that it was violating code by not using a sufficient amount of certain chemicals used to protect pipe interiors, not using proper monitoring equipment to determine it those chemicals were working, and not examining its monitoring equipment at least twice a year.

“The transition from one technology to another must be implemented in a manner that ensures continued compliance with the regulations,” the agency wrote.

And if you are wondering if this could get to be any more like a horrible remake of the worst disaster movie ever.  The answer would be – yes!!

Apparently, Enbridge-related companies have a record of violations in the Great Lakes region.  (Another AP)

Houston-based Enbridge Energy Co., spilled almost 19,000 gallons of crude oil onto Wisconsin’s Nemadji River in 2003. Another 189,000 gallons of oil spilled at the company’s terminal two miles from Lake Superior, though most was contained.

In 2007, two spills released about 200,000 gallons of crude in northern Wisconsin as Enbridge was expanding a 320-mile pipeline. The company also was accused of violating Wisconsin permits designed to protect water quality during work in and around wetlands, rivers and streams, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said. The violations came during construction of a 321-mile, $2 billion oil pipeline across that state. Enbridge agreed to pay $1.1 million in 2009.

Our government set more than a few bad precedents with the gulf oil spill. Will the trend continue?  Will the federal government be in charge of the clean up? Or like BP, will Enbridge Energy Partners LP of Houston or it’s Alberta, Canada based Enbridge Inc.’s affiliate  be the ones in control of what happens on US soil?  Will Enbridge too call the shots on media and citizen access and information?  Will dispersants be used ? Have they already been used?  Does anyone even know besides Enbridge?

And if that is not enough food for thought… For any who thought that oil spills were just a problem for Alaska, the gulf, or east and west coasts. The green lines on the map below (via www.theodora.com ) show that oil pipelines in the US go right through the heartland and much of the west.

United States oil, gas and products pipelines map - Click on map to enlarge

Our government, BP and now Enbridge are working hard to make us think out of sight is out of mind, so problem solved.  But as this Michigan spill and the  National Wildlife Federation report (view the PDF here.) shows our oil and oil spill problems are in all our backyards and are not going to go away any time soon!

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More video and a great commentary via WWMT.


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