We’re coming up on two years since a pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy ruptured. More than 840,000 gallons of tar sands oil spilled into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.
The Environmental Protection Agency says most of the oil has been removed from the creek and the river. But there’s still oil at the bottom of the Kalamazoo River. This spring, the company, the state and the EPA will be figuring out how much oil is left... and where it is.
“The pipeline break location was approximately a half mile upstream from here.”
Mark DuCharme is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. We’re standing on a two-lane road looking out at Talmadge Creek.
“Shortly after the spill, you couldn’t actually even see the creek. If you were down at this location, all you could see is oil. These banks were heavily oiled as well, so just catastrophic damage.”
He says things have come a long way at this site. Enbridge moved the creek out of its normal path... they actually diverted it and ran it through a pipeline. Then, they dug up the contaminated creek bed. Now, the creek is back in place. Enbridge put in clean soil, and then added seeds from native wetland plants.
Little green shoots are pushing up through the ground.
But there’s still a long road ahead. Mark DuCharme says Enbridge has more restoration work to do at Talmadge Creek... and then the DEQ will require long-term monitoring.
“Can we replace it to the exact condition it was prior? Probably not. Can we go back and put something back that will be an acceptable ecosystem? That’s the expectation.”
DuCharme says tar sands oil is very heavy, and very thick - and that has made the cleanup more difficult.