It was one of the largest oil spills in the Midwest... and it’s not over yet.
Crews are still cleaning up from last July’s oil spill in the Kalamazoo River. An oil pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy Partners ruptured... and spilled more than 840,000 gallons of heavy crude. The oil polluted Talmadge Creek and more than 30 miles of the Kalamazoo River.
Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency say most of that oil has been sucked out of the river... and tens of thousands of cubic yards of contaminated soil have been removed.
But the work is far from done.
The EPA granted me access to one of the contaminated sites on the Kalamazoo River. I met with Mark Durno, the Deputy Incident Commander with the EPA. He’s overseeing the cleanup teams. We stood on the bank of the river as dump trucks and loaders rumbled over a bridge out to an island in the river.
“The islands were heavily contaminated, we didn’t expect to see as much oil as we did. If you’d shovel down into the islands you’d see oil pool into the holes we’d dig."
Workers scooped out contaminated soil... hauled it to a staging area and shipped it off site.
Mark Durno says the weather will dictate what happens next. He says heavy rainstorms will probably move oil around. They won’t know how much more cleanup work they’ll have to do until they finish their spring assessment.
“Once the heavy rains recede, we’ll do an assessment over the entire stretch of river to determine whether there are substantial amounts of submerged oil in sediments that still exist in the system.”
He says if they find a lot of oil at the bottom of the river... the crews will have to remove it.
Reports that Enbridge submitted to the EPA and the state of Michigan show the type of oil spilled in the Kalamazoo River was diluted bitumen. Bitumen is a type of oil that comes from tar sands. It’s a very thick oil, and it has to be diluted in order to move through pipelines.