Michigan residents who have watched the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster unfold, grateful to be far-removed from such horrors, are now facing their own toxic nightmare. U.S. Representative Mark Schauer of Battle Creek has already called it the “largest oil spill in the history of the Midwest,” according to The Detroit News, although EPA officials “declined to say it is the largest spill.”
Estimates have varied from 840,000 gallons – or 20,000 barrels, according to WOOD-TV8 – to 877,000 gallons, which AP writes is the amount Enbridge reported to Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources during their first briefing. Rep. Schauer is quoted by The Detroit News saying, “The EPA is estimating 1 million gallons (spilled)…”
The Battle Creek Enquirer says Enbridge Energy Partners took responsibility on July 26 for the 30-inch pipeline leak, which originated between Marshall and Fredonia Townships. The pipeline, which is said to carry 8 million gallons of oil per day from Indiana to Canada, apparently began releasing oil into Talmadge Creek on July 25. While it was originally hoped the oil would be stopped before reaching the Kalamazoo River, those efforts failed.
A Battle Creek resident who recognized the smell of oil outdoors near Marshall Sunday night made a 911 call at approximately 9:00 p.m., according to The Enquirer, but WOOD-TV8 later said responders were not able to determine the source of the fumes at that time. The leak was not detected until an Enbridge monitoring station 100 miles away notified Enbridge’s Marshall pumping station of a pipeline pressure drop and ordered a visual, on-site inspection. At approximately 10 a.m. the following morning, oil was identified and pipeline valves to the leaking pipe section were closed. As of 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, the cause of the pipeline rupture remains unknown, but is under investigation by the EPA and the National Transportation Safety Board.
After a tour of the Kalamazoo River, Governor Jennifer Granholm declared a state of emergency for Calhoun and Kalamazoo Counties. The Detroit News also said Granholm evaluated Enbridge’s response to the spill as “anemic.” In just two days, the crude has already flowed 16 miles from its point of origin. Shocked and concerned Battle Creek River residents are also finding oil in their area.
Local station WOOD-TV8 and WZZM-TV13 meteorologists explained during recent broadcasts how storm rains last week enlarged the waterways to increase their flow rates, now moving the spilled oil five times faster than normal. A return of heavy rain this week could lead to flooding, potentially spreading oil beyond the waterways’ banks.
MSNBC reported from the Associated Press wire that “The [Kalamazoo] river already faced major pollution issues. An 80-mile segment of the river and five miles of a tributary, Portage Creek, 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.”
Local CBS affiliate WWMT also indicated Tuesday night the EPA’s desire to halt the oil before it reaches the Superfund sites, previously contaminated with PCBs. Fred Upton, U.S. Representative from St. Joseph, explains in an interview with WWMT how containing oil before it reaches Lake Morrow is crucial to minimizing disturbance of PCBs in the lake sediment.
MSNBC also reported on July 27 that “[Enbridge] had begun testing the air near the spill, with the primary concern being the possible presence of the cancer-causing chemical benzene… on Tuesday, the company said it hadn’t found any levels that would be of concern in residential areas.” However, MSNBC adds the “Michigan Department of Community Health is also warning the public to stay away from the creek and river during the cleanup… people shouldn’t eat fish from the waterways or have contact with the water, and farmers and homeowners who use the water for irrigation or livestock should stop.”
WWMT’s video reporter Jared Werksma states the EPA will continue to monitor ground water, drinking water, and benzene levels. Initially, The Battle Creek Enquirer stated only two homes were evacuated on July 26, but more than 20 are now reported by The Detroit News on July 27.
Oiled wildlife and how to help
Well-meaning Michigan residents are reminded that handling distressed wildlife coated in toxic sludge presents risk and stress for both the animal and the person. The clear message is wildlife rescues should not be attempted by untrained individuals. The needs of wild animals suffering this oil spill situation are best met by trained wildlife professionals, or volunteers working under professional supervision.
WOOD-TV8 posts on its site: “Enbridge spokeswoman Terri Larson said the company is aware of the birds and is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. People wanting to report endangered animals — or any oil issues — can contact Enbridge at 1-800-306-6837.” WWMT says officials are urging residents not to call 911, but to use the Enbridge line to make these reports. WOOD’s newest report July 28 urges caring individuals to call the hotlines and “leave wildlife cleaning to the pros.”
WZZM-TV reported July 28 that “Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment employees were unable to help wildlife affected by the oil spill on the river Tuesday… [because] the level of benzene in the air [was] too high to allow workers to get near the river…”
In the same article, WZZM-TV13 also reports The Circle D Wildlife Refuge in Vicksburg “is looking for volunteers to help clean the birds, monetary donations, and donations of buckets, vegetable oil, dish soap and rags.” Those interested in volunteering may visit the refuge, located at 13500 East U Avenue in Vicksburg, or call Pam Decuypere at (269) 365-5349.
For original sources, story updates, and breaking news photos, please visit:
‘Oil spill so far’ (embedded video of July 28 on WWMT’s home page featuring Fred Upton interview) http://www.wwmt.com/