Kalamazoo river oil spill

Enbridge is asking the Environmental Protection Agency for more time to clean up a portion of its 2010 oil spill in the Kalamazoo River.

Earlier this year, the EPA ordered Enbridge to remove more crude oil from the spill that settled on the bottom of the river and Morrow Lake.

Enbridge spokesman Jason Manshum expects the company will be able to complete work on four of the five sites the E-P-A wants dredged by December 31st.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

It appears less likely that Enbridge will meet a federal deadline to dredge some of the oil that remains at the bottom of the Kalamazoo River. The oil is left over from the company’s spill three years ago.

The Environmental Protection Agency wants the work done by the end of this year. They say the work will remove 12,000 – 18,000 gallons of “recoverable oil”.

Enbridge needs to get several permits from Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality to do the dredging work in five locations.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Three years ago today, an underground pipeline carrying tar sands oil to refineries near Detroit ruptured near Marshall, Michigan. The break went undetected overnight, allowing hundreds of thousands of gallons of thick oil to seep into the Kalamazoo River.

On July 26, 2010, a call came into Jay Wesley’s office in Plainwell that there’d been an oil spill.

“We expected to see an overturned truck or something like that. That’s typically what our spills are like here, very minor,” he says.

This week marks three years since an Enbridge Energy pipeline ruptured near Marshall, Michigan. More than a million gallons of tar sands oil have been cleaned up from Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River, but the cleanup isn't over yet. We got an update on the cleanup efforts and what still needs to be done.

And, we heard from Michigan storyteller Allison Downey. She brought us the voices of the workers at a recent summer carnival. And, a new study at Michigan State University is investigating how dioxins affect human health. The lead researcher for this study joined us today. Also, bankruptcy isn't the only issue Detroit is facing. We took a look at how crime is plaguing the city. First on the show, eventually Detroit’s bankruptcy filing will be over. Eventually, Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr will no longer be in charge of Detroit’s finances. When those things happen, Detroit will go back to being run by its city government… by a mayor, and a city council. 

Daniel Howes, columnist at The Detroit News, focused on this future in his column yesterday in the News. He joined us today to discuss whether Detroit can shed its bad governance habits in light of the bankruptcy.

Photo courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency

This week marks three years since an Enbridge Energy pipeline ruptured near Marshall, Michigan. More than one million gallons of tar sands oil have been cleaned up from Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

The cleanup has already cost Enbridge almost a billion dollars and they still have lots of work ahead of them.

Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith has been following the story, and she joined us today from Muskegon.

Listen to the full interview above.

edwin.bautista / Flickr

Bell’s Brewery has filed a lawsuit against Enbridge and the developer of Comstock Commerce Park.

The suit concerns the dredging plans for the Kalamazoo River. Dredging the river is a part of an ongoing effort to clean up the oil spill that happened three years ago.

Residents and business owners – such as Larry Bell of Bell’s Brewery – have expressed concern about the potential pollution that will be caused by the dredging effort.

Ursula Zerilli of MLive had the following report on the dredging operation:

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Protesters are expected Sunday afternoon near the Mackinac Bridge. The protest won’t be about what travels over the bridge, but actually beneath it.

Jim Lively is the program director at the Michigan Land Use Institute. He says several environmental groups are worried about an aging oil pipeline that passes through the Mackinac Straits.

“It’s really unclear what the benefit is to the state of Michigan to take this oil that’s coming from either Canada or North Dakota,” says Lively.

Enbridge Energy has until July 31st to submit a plan to resolve problems with its new oil pipeline. The line will span much of lower Michigan once completed. It’ll replace the one that burst in 2010, causing the oil spill in the Kalamazoo River.

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality cited a dozen violations of the conditions of a water discharge permit.

MDEQ investigated the site in Livingston County’s Tyrone Township after a video surfaced online of reddish colored hydrostatic test water spewing into North Ore Creek.

MDEQ found Enbridge didn’t have someone on site overseeing the tests on the pipeline. Water sampling and testing wasn’t done as required. There was too much oil and grease discharged, among other issues.

Enbridge Energy

The U.S. State Department has extended the public comment period on a proposal to nearly double the amount of crude oil that's shipped in a pipeline along Lake Superior.

Enbridge Energy’s Line 67, also known as the “Alberta Clipper” pipeline, runs from the tar sands region in Canada down to Wisconsin near Lake Superior. In the US, it's more than 300 miles long and three feet in diameter.

State of Michigan / EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency says more dredging is needed to remove submerged oil in parts of the Kalamazoo River.   The oil is from a massive spill in 2010. 

It’s been two and half years since a pipeline ruptured near Marshall, spewing hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil that eventually fouled about forty miles of the Kalamazoo River.

The EPA says more than a million gallons of oil have been recovered since the cleanup began.  But the agency says there’s still more oil submerged in the river. 

Aerial photo of Talmadge Creek after Enbridge oil spill
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

We’re rounding the corner on the three year anniversary of the Enbridge oil spill near Marshall.

The cleanup isn’t over yet and so far, more than a million gallons of thick tar sands oil have been cleaned up from the Kalamazoo River and Talmadge Creek.

State officials have been looking at possible health risks from the spill.

This week, the Michigan Department of Community Health released a report on drinking water wells along the spill zone.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

There's good news and bad news for residents with drinking water wells near the Kalamazoo River. A massive oil spill contaminated the river in 2010.

State officials tested 150 of the residential water wells for contaminants.

“Now the oil related chemicals, those would have been iron and nickel, they were detected in a few wells but nothing but was levels of concern,” says Angela Minicuci, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Community Health.

There’s going to be a meeting tonight in the normally sleepy community of Brandon Township, in rural northern Oakland County not that far from Flint. Except that this session is likely to be different.

You can expect it to be crowded, and explosive.

Two years ago, a pipeline belonging to an Alberta-based company called Enbridge ruptured near the picturesque town of Marshall, sending more than eight hundred thousand gallons of crude, thick, tar sands oil into a creek leading to the Kalamazoo River. It was the largest inland oil spill in the history of the Midwest.

State of Michigan / EPA

Two years ago today, the EPA estimates Enbridge Energy's busted pipeline led to an oil spill of more than 1 million gallons into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

We've been covering the spill and it's cleanup since it first happened. You can follow the links below for a chronological compilation of Michigan Radio's coverage of the incident and its fallout.

2010

user Kyle1278 / Wikimedia Commons

It's been two years since a busted pipeline spilled more than 800,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River.

Michigan Radio's  Zoe Clark sat down with reporter Steve Carmody who has covered the spill since July 2010 and spoke about the efforts to clean up with river and how its faring two years on.

Michigan State Capitol Building
Nikopoley / Wikimedia Commons

Several rallies at the state Capitol were timed to coincide with the Legislature’s only session day this month.

The largest was a group of about 150 abortion rights advocates protesting a package of bills before the state Senate.

The bills call for strict regulations on abortion providers.

One of the speakers was Renee Chelian. She works for a group of family planning clinics in metro Detroit. Chelian says protests have slowed down the bills after they cleared the state House last month.

Federal regulators this week blasted Enbridge Energy for its handling of the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill.     But the highly critical federal report is unlikely to affect a state review of Enbridge’s plans for a new oil pipeline through Michigan.  

NTSB

The National Transportation Safety Board is not pulling its punches against Enbridge Energy in a highly critical report of the company’s handling of the July, 2010 oil spill near Marshall.

NTSB

Federal regulators will release a report tomorrow on the reasons why an oil pipeline broke near Marshall.

Environmentalists want to see if problems with federal oversight of the pipeline industry will be cited in the report.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Republican Congressman Fred Upton and his primary challenger Jack Hoogendyk talked mostly about health care the federal deficit and energy issues during a debate Tuesday afternoon. The two Republicans debated for an hour on WKZO.

Their talking points were about the same but Hoogendyk says he’s more conservative than Upton, who’s been in Congress 25 years now.

EPA

Enbridge Energy may have to pay a record federal fine for the July 2010 oil spill near Marshall.

But the proposed fine is well below the expected cost of the nearly two-year-long cleanup.

LadyDragonFlyCC / Creative Commons

It’s another sign things are starting to get back to normal… two years after the spill. Earlier this month the state opened up the river to swimmers and boaters for the first time since the spill.

The Michigan Department of Community Health says it’s now safe to eat fish from a thirty-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River affected by a massive oil spill.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Last night, dozens of people in Marshall had a chance to look at plans for a new oil pipeline that would run through their mid-Michigan community.

The new pipeline would replace an older one that ruptured two years ago, resulting in a massive oil spill.

city of Marshall

Enbridge Energy officials will to meet tonight with people in Marshall to lay out their plans for a new oil pipeline.

Two years ago, an Enbridge pipeline ruptured near Marshall, leaking more than 800 thousand gallons of crude oil.   Only last week, state and federal officials announced the reopening of most of the Kalamazoo River, which has been closed to the public so crews could clean up the oil spill.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

It’s been nearly two years since an Enbridge pipeline ruptured near Marshall, leaking more than 800,000 gallons of heavy, thick tar sands oil into the river. Most of it has been cleaned up. What remains has sunk to the river bottom or dried up on the bank.

EPA Region 5

An ongoing investigation into the 2010 Enbridge oil spill by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is raising concern over frequent staff turnover and inexperience among personnel in the company’s Endmonton control-room.

Last Friday, the NTSB added new materials to the public accident docket, including transcribed interviews with Enbridge staff.

The Toronto Globe and Mail reports:

In the transcripts, one control-room operator likens his job to that of an air traffic controller and says he’d like to see Enbridge do more to retain control-room staff in the hot Alberta job market.

“And you just don’t have air traffic controllers coming in and out of the system like that, right, because you know that it will impact safety, right?” says the transcription. “So, I’d like to see them really look at keeping people in the control-room, keeping us happy in there, and I don’t know what it’s going to take, but that’s what I’d like to see.”

The employee added that when he started working at the company 25 years ago, he could count a combined 100 years of experience among four employees in the control-room. Now, he said, the experienced personnel in the room tend to only have three or four years under their belts.

The NTSB also reported that the time of the spill coincided with a shift change in the control-room, offering a possible explanation of why the spill went unnoticed for hours.

In a press release, Enbridge officials said that they would wait to comment on the new findings until the NTSB publishes its final report later this fall. In the release, officials added that the company been working to improve the safety of its operations in the two years since the spill by doing things like changing the “structure and leadership of functional departments such as pipeline control, leak detection and system integrity.”

- Suzanne Jacobs, Michigan Radio Newsroom

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Tests suggest household wells near the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill have not been contaminated.

A pipeline break in July, 2010, resulted in more than 800 thousand gallons of crude oil leaking into the Kalamazoo River.   The cleanup of the river and the surrounding area continues.

Health officials have spent the past few years testing 150 wells in the spill zone.

(EPA)

MARSHALL, Mich. (AP) — Federal officials have released photographs and 5,000 pages of documents related to the pipeline rupture in southwestern Michigan that polluted the Kalamazoo River and a tributary creek nearly two years ago.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating what caused the leak, which spilled more than 800,000 gallons of crude near Marshall in Calhoun County. Spokesman Peter Knudson said Monday the NTSB expects to reach a conclusion this summer.

The newly released material includes photos of the damaged pipe, reports outlining the sequence of events following the July 25, 2010 rupture and interviews with emergency responders and officials with Enbridge Inc., owner of the pipeline.

The 30-inch line extends from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario. Enbridge announced plans last week to enlarge the pipe so it can carry more oil.

NTSB

A new report argues that our current laws are not strong enough to protect the Great Lakes from major oil spills. 

The National Wildlife Federation wanted to look at pipeline oversight after the massive tar sands oil spill in the Kalamazoo River in 2010.  The spill was the result of a ruptured pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy.  (The official cause of the spill is still under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board)

Sara Gosman is an attorney who wrote the report for the National Wildlife Federation.

"Federal laws are inadequate and states have not passed their own laws to fill in the gaps."

We’ve previously reported the spill ran through some of the highest quality wetlands in Michigan.

Sara Gosman says federal laws on oil pipelines do not protect all environmentally sensitive areas.  Instead, the laws cover something called high consequence areas.

"It’s a term of art used by the federal pipeline agency.  It’s a bunch of different areas.  For environmental purposes, it’s commercially navigable waterways, areas with threatened and endangered species and drinking water sources."

Gosman says federal government data show 44% of hazardous liquid pipelines in the country run through places that could affect high consequence areas.  She says that means companies have to do special inspections on those segments of pipelines... but not necessarily on the rest of the pipelines.

"This means 56% of hazardous liquid pipeline miles do not have to be continually assessed, have leak detection systems or be repaired on set timelines."

screen grab / Vimeo Video

In 2010, John Bolenbaugh worked for clean-up contractor SET Environmental Inc. The company was one of many to come in and start the clean-up process after an Enbridge Energy pipeline broke and spilled more than 840,000 gallons of thick, tar sands oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

Bolenbaugh was fired after several weeks on the job. He claimed he was wrongfully terminated after he complained the oil was not being cleaned up properly.

SET Environmental Inc. said Bolenbaugh broke company policy by speaking to the news media without approval.

This week, the Battle Creek Enquirer reports Bolenbaugh settled the case, which according to his attorneys, clears the way for a lawsuit against Enbridge Energy.

Testimony began last week in Bolenbaugh’s civil suit against SET Environmental but his attorney, Thomas Warnicke of Southfield and the attorney for SET, Van Essen, said they reached a settlement agreement Sunday.“It is the only legal way to go after Enbridge,” Bolenbaugh said about the settlement moments after Calhoun County Circuit Judge James Kingsley approved and sealed the confidential agreement.

The amount Bolenbaugh was awarded was not disclosed, but he stated he now has enough money to "fund what I am doing now."

What he is doing now is to continue his fight against Enbridge Energy.

From MLive:

"It gives him the resources and means to allow him to continue his efforts on behalf of the community," said Bolenbaugh's lawyer, Tom Warnicke of Fieger Law. 

Warnicke would not comment on any future lawsuit against Enbridge. "At this time, he is exploring any and all alternative legal claims he may have," he said of Bolenbaugh.

Since he was fired in October of 2010, Bolenbaugh has posted videos which he says prove the company is not cleaning up remaining oil.

A lawyer for representing SET Environmental Inc. quoted in the Battle Creek Enquirer said  testimony given last week, and testimony that would have been given had the case continued, "would have explained how oil was being removed and why Bolenbaugh is mistaken that the oil spill is being hidden from the government and the community."

Bolenbaugh came up in one of our  "Your Story" segments last year. Activist, social worker, and Kalamazoo College grad student Sasha Acker went down to the Kalamazoo River's edge with Bolenbaugh. You can read about her account here.

Pages