While folks across the country have been preoccupied with the massive disaster on the Gulf Coast, and rightfully so, there was another oil spill crisis in Michigan. Enbridge, Inc., a Canadian company whose pipeline leaked hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into a major 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 Hazardous Materials Safety Administration told Enbridge Energy Partners Chairman Terry McGill in a letter dated January 21, 2010 that its corrosion monitoring did not comply with federal regulations.
As a result of the Kalamazoo River spill, more than 1 million gallons of oil leaked from a pipeline into Talmadge Creek, which feeds the river. Enbridge estimated that 819,000 gallons spilled on July 26th before it could stop the leak. By July 28th the oil had traveled at least 35 miles downstream from where it leaked in Calhoun County’s Marshall Township, killing fish, coating other wildlife and emitting a strong, unpleasant odor. It had passed through Battle Creek, a city of 52,000 residents about 110 miles west of Detroit, and was headed toward Morrow Lake, a key point near a Superfund site upstream of Kalamazoo, the largest city in the region.
Enbridge-related companies have been cited several times in recent years for violations in the Great Lakes region. 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.
The Michigan leak came from a 30-inch pipeline, which was built in 1969 and carries about 8 million gallons of oil daily from Griffith, Indiana, to Sarnia, Ontario. An 80-mile segment of the river that begins at Morrow Lake and five miles of a tributary, Portage Creek, have unsafe levels of PCBs and were placed on the federal Superfund list of high-priority hazardous waste sites in 1990. The Kalamazoo site also includes four landfills and several defunct paper mills.
Source: Associated Press
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