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Our Spreading Oil Disaster – A Million Gallons In Michigan River

If you thought what happened in the Gulf Oil Spill was an isolated incident or the worst that could happen, you might want to think again.

What would happen if an oil leak/spill hit your community?  Would the response be faster?  The spill contained quicker?  Or clean up handled better?  Would the oil threaten your health and welfare or that of friends and family?  Would it impact your livelihood or the economic survival of your community?

Well, parts of Michigan and possibly the midwest will be finding out the answers to these questions the hard way — up close and personal.  All thanks to a ruptured pipeline near Battle Creek Michigan that leaked, according to EPA, a million plus gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River Sunday night.

Via WWMT:


A million gallons may not seem a lot when compared to the million barrels of the Gulf spill. But this oil went directly into creek that feed into a major (though not very wide) river and is traveling through populated areas and doesn’t have vast ocean waters to help dilute it.   The AP put the spill size into perspective this way:

An 800,000 gallon spill would be enough to fill 1-gallon jugs lined side by side for nearly 70 miles. It also could fill a walled-in football field, including the end zones, with just under 2 feet of oil.

Its impact on Michigan residents and wildlife are already being felt in both rural and urban communities and threatening water supplies.(via Battle Creek Enquirer)

Besides the noxious fumes coming from the river, health officials already are worried that the oil spill could have lasting health effects. While he said that the site of the spill was a wetland — which has a natural clay barrier that prevents water from seeping too far into the ground — Calhoun County Health Officer Jim Rutherford said there was a concern that the magnitude of the spill could spell trouble for the area’s water supply.

“It’s not going to show up right now, but over time there is a real possibility that it will leach into the water supply,” Rutherford said. “I think it’s inevitable that, with as much as has leaked, that it will get into the water supply.”

Groundwater supplies have not been tested yet because the focus thus far has been on air quality, Rutherford said. EPA officials are planning on setting up a testing facility to gauge the amount of volatile organic compounds in the air as a result of the spill.

The bigger fear is that, if not stopped, the oil could end up reaching Lake Michigan, thereby spreading the threat to wildlife, residents and communities along the shorelines of Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.

( via NYTimes)

State officials here have expressed grave concern over the environmental impact if the spill reaches Lake Michigan, more than 60 miles away. Officials for the Environmental Protection Agency, which is leading the response efforts, said Thursday that they were confident that they could prevent that from happening. [snip]

The cause of the leak was being investigated. The pipeline remained closed and cannot be reopened without approval from federal regulators.

Local emergency officials said Thursday that they would evacuate 30 more families from homes near the spill site because of health risks. They also asked residents of about 100 homes along the river to use bottled water as a precautionary measure while they tested local water sources.

Wildlife officials said that they had opened a rehabilitation center for animals and that Canada geese, swans and turtles had already been rescued.

Sad to say it all sounds eerily familiar. As we saw with the BP spill, politicians are vowing to make Enbridge responsible and pay for the clean up. Enbridge’s president and CEO Patrick D. Daniel has promised “We are going to do what it takes to make this right.”  There are conflicting reports on the amount of the spill – Enbridge estimates 800,000 gallons, Fed’s estimate is over a million gallons. Either way Governor Granholm is calling Enbridge’s and the governments response “wholly inadequate.”

And surprise, surprise – the federal government knew there were problems with this pipeline.  ( via AP)

A Canadian company whose pipeline leaked hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into a 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 HazardousMaterials Safety Administration told Enbridge Energy Partners Chairman Terry McGill in a Jan. 21 letter that its corrosion monitoring in Line 6B, the line that ruptured, did not comply with federal regulations.

According to the warning, Enbridge was implementing an alternate way of monitoring corrosion in the pipeline, and had detailed to regulators the steps it was taking to track corrosion in the meantime.

But the agency warned the company in the letter that it was violating code by not using a sufficient amount of certain chemicals used to protect pipe interiors, not using proper monitoring equipment to determine it those chemicals were working, and not examining its monitoring equipment at least twice a year.

“The transition from one technology to another must be implemented in a manner that ensures continued compliance with the regulations,” the agency wrote.

And if you are wondering if this could get to be any more like a horrible remake of the worst disaster movie ever.  The answer would be – yes!!

Apparently, Enbridge-related companies have a record of violations in the Great Lakes region.  (Another AP)

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.

Our government set more than a few bad precedents with the gulf oil spill. Will the trend continue?  Will the federal government be in charge of the clean up? Or like BP, will Enbridge Energy Partners LP of Houston or it’s Alberta, Canada based Enbridge Inc.’s affiliate  be the ones in control of what happens on US soil?  Will Enbridge too call the shots on media and citizen access and information?  Will dispersants be used ? Have they already been used?  Does anyone even know besides Enbridge?

And if that is not enough food for thought… For any who thought that oil spills were just a problem for Alaska, the gulf or east and west coasts. The green lines on the map below (via www.theodora.com ) show that oil pipelines in the US go right through the heartland and much of the west.

United States oil, gas and products pipelines map - Click on map to enlarge

Our government, BP and now Enbridge are working hard to make us think out of sight is out of mind, so problem solved.  But as this Michigan spill and the  National Wildlife Federation report (view the PDF here.) shows our oil and oil spill problems are in all our backyards and are not going to go away any time soon!

More video and a great commentary via WWMT.

  • Guest

    Look for small yellow droplets of oil visibly trapped inside crabs that have been sampled from Louisiana to Pensacola, Fla.–if there are a lot of them __don’t eat it!!

    http://www.businessinsider.com/researchers-find-evidence-of-oil-contamination-in-gulfs-food-chain-2010-6

  • Linda Anselmi

    And no evidence of corexit contamination?  Or any other dispersant?  Last I heard they still didn’t have a test for it in the seafood yet.  A lot easier to say it is not there when you can’t prove it one way or the other.

  • Guest

    Which is why shrimpers have complained of extreme itching, blisters, welts, sore throats, ear bleeds, bronchitis, muscle spasms, heart palpitations, headaches that last for weeks, bleeding from the rectum etc. Because toxic impacts occur at levels of something like 2-3 parts per million for COREXIT. 

    :(

  • Sassy

    Professor Ed Overton had several televised appearances with in-depth explanations about the Gulf spill.
    Scientists might dispute that they are bought and paid for, especially the eight who did not approve the drilling moratorium.
    Salazar, Markey, and Waxman were supposed to oversee Mineral’s Management, so their credibility is suspect now.

  • ~~Justme~~

    It is difficult to draw any sound conclusion to what is happening in the gulf! There has been such a blackout, how do we verify everything in print is correct or believable! Strangely, many posters have come up with different scenarios to posts added here at NQ and the results have shown to be quite accurate once a bigger picture has become available…. You can understand when one offers different opinions how some people become uncertain! Frustration, is the norm these days when trying to validate any information coming out the gulf. The government is as much at fault as BP they have both made it difficult to draw any reasonable understanding on what is really happening, it will be no different in Battle Creek Michigan!

  • ~~Justme~~

    It is difficult to draw any sound conclusion to what is happening in the gulf! There has been such a blackout, how do we verify everything in print is correct or believable! Strangely, many posters have come up with different scenarios to posts added here at NQ and the results have shown to be quite accurate. You can understand when one offers different opinions how some people become uncertain! Frustration is the norm these days when trying to asses any information from the gulf. The government is as much at fault as BP they have both made it difficult to draw any reasonable understanding on what is really happening it will be no different in Battle Creek Michigan!

  • Sassy

    Several fishing grounds are to be reopened soon as well, with no evidence of oil contamination in the seafood.

  • Docelder

    There are reports of shrimpers being sick from absorbing petrochemicals through the skin and having symptoms of severe headaches and rectal bleeding. Also a news station in Alabama sent a reporter to take samples of water that looked clean from where kids were playing on the beach and they had over 200 ppm petroleum. One sample pulled fom the docks exploded when the chemist was testign it. They think from either dissolved methane or dispersant. But, we are seeing news releases of a miraclous cleanup. Other stories saying was the story overblown? No. The oil is just mostly underwater. Out of sight, out of mind.

  • Docelder

    Sure, since we revere now the word of “science” like it was some kind of a religion and since science is for sale… why not? It is a lot cheaper to hire all the prominent scientists that could refute the camp of BP owned scienists and tie them up with non disclosure agreements than to actually clean the oil.

  • Guest

    Someone needs to thoroughly test for the sensitivity of synergistic toxicity between the oil and Corexit. Because it’s probably not the oil alone, it’s probably not the dispersant — it’s the dispersed oil that still contains this stuff that is bringing some very nasty compounds right through the skin of any organism unfortunate enough to have direct contact with the chemical soup.

  • Sassy

    BP has reportedly said they will have a ten year commitment to the Gulf region, and has hired Witt, former FEMA director.
    An AP article yesterday discussed a $20 million dollar investment in the Gulf states as well as Arkansas, Georgia, and Missouri for farmers to flood acreage providing habitat to migratory birds.
    Officials hope to have 150,000 acres of manmade wetlands ready by August.
    Numerous scientists have been interviewed about the recovery in the Gulf from the previous huge spill near Mexico. In the interest of balance, there are some positives to report.

  • Touchet

    I am throughly convinced all these leaks are on purpose, mass control to get us off of oil.

    Next up on the menu is the West coast.  Alaska aready had there’s.  We need a HUGE oil spill that covers the beaches of LA.

  • Touchet

    I am throughly convinced all these leaks are on purpose, mass control to get us off of oil.

  • getfitnow

    I listened to a clip from Hannity’s radio show.  He was still exploding. Rep Peter King nor Hannity could barely complete a sentence. I couldn’t listen to the entire clip.

    If I had been host, I would have “excused” him from the show.

  • Captain Jack Sparrow

    This is what happens when you “deregulate”… A republican battle cry. Of course it is also a democratic curse as well.

    The problem here is that the teeth have been taken out of many of the regulatory agencies especially EPA, MMS, U.S DOT Office of Pipeline Safety.  Enforcement of Notices of Violations (NOVs) are at an all time low.What the hell good is an advisory letter?

    Now we are paying the price… Wake up Congress! Otherwise re-elections no matter what party thinks the other is extreme will not help anyone get reelected…..

  • Guest

    That was my question as well. Because of the massive use of two types of Corexit dispersant, some earlier reports had indicated that only about 2% of oil reached the surface and most of the oil remains deep into the Gulf waters.

    There are still confirmed subsea oily, gushing “plumes” of Corexit, some hundreds of square miles large ;and further information as to the fate of the deep oil combined with Corexit are still lacking. Corexit has been described as the most toxic of all dispersants, and several times more toxic than oil.

  • ~~Justme~~

    It is difficult to draw any sound conclusion to what is happening in the gulf! There has been such a blackout, how do we verify everything in print is correct or believable! Strangely many posters have come up with different scenarios to posts added here at NQ and the results have shown to be quite accurate once the bigger picture has become available…. You can understand when one offers different options how some people become uncertain! Frustration is the norm these days when trying to asses any information from the gulf. The government is as much at fault as BP they have both made it difficult to draw any reasonable understanding of what is actually going!!

  • Linda Anselmi

    http://blog.al.com/live/2010/07/bp_buys_up_gulf_scientists_for.html
    For the last few weeks, BP has been offering signing bonuses and lucrative pay to prominent scientists from public universities around the Gulf Coast to aid its defense against spill litigation.
     
    BP PLC attempted to hire the entire marine sciences department at one Alabama university, according to scientists involved in discussions with the company’s lawyers. The university declined because of confidentiality restrictions that the company sought on any research.
     
    The Press-Register obtained a copy of a contract offered to scientists by BP. It prohibits the scientists from publishing their research, sharing it with other scientists or speaking about the data that they collect for at least the next three years.

  • Linda Anselmi

    http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-07-29/house-democrats-warn-bp-against-muzzling-spill-science-advisers.html
    House Democrats investigating the Gulf of Mexico oil spill warned BP Plc against suppressing scientific analysis by its consultants.
    House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, and Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, raised concern that the company is imposing confidentiality agreements with scientists in a letter to BP America Chief Executive Officer Lamar McKay.
    “Any effort to muzzle scientists or shield their findings under doctrines of legal privileges could seriously impede the recovery,” the lawmakers wrote today in their letter. “The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is not a private matter.”

  • Linda Anselmi

    Not sure where all the anger is coming from OA.
     I read the article and watched the video.   It all sounds nicely prepackaged by marketing and PR.  Including  confirmation by by one fisherman, one fly over and ‘experts’ without names.
    And not very much discussion about what is going on below the surface.  
    My point was, we are not getting all the information we need and deserve to know about what is happening in our environment and food chain.  Including the dispersants.  Did the millions of gallons of dispersants magically disappear also?

  • Onofre’s arm

    “I hope you are right OA  But BP has bought up a lot of scientists and academics so you’ve got to be careful about who you believe.”

    WTF!?? Did you read the article and watch the video??

    Screw it all, I GIVE UP!!

  • Linda Anselmi

    I hope you are right OA  But BP has bought up a lot of scientists and academics so you’ve got to be careful about who you believe.

  • Linda Anselmi

    Thanks Tricia.  

  • Onofre’s arm

    This is something I wrote over two months ago:  
     
    Onofre’s arm has commented Saturday, May 22, 2010,23:01:15″Actually, it could potentially change the balance of our eco systems for a very very very long time.”      
       
    Actually………..not. This sort of thing has been happening for millions of years, and nature adapts quite well.     
       
    It may be MORE harmful in the long run to rapidly attack the oil as it washes ashore, than it would be to let the situation “play out” and accumulate for a while until the source has been stopped. It’s actually easier to clean 4 inches of accumulated petroleum sludge off a beach than it is to daily clean minor deposits. For now, aside from chemical treatments and surface mitigation efforts, there is little anyone can do to control what the bulk of the oil will do, or where it will go. Let natural forces send it where they will, give it some time, and THEN assess the situation and determine the most efficient course of action. You may be surprised how well nature can deal with such a common (in geologic terms) event. 
    ************************************************
    In Drudge two days ago:

    http://abcnews.go.com/WN/bp-oil-spill-crude-mother-nature-breaks-slick/story?id=11254252

    “Still, it doesn’t mean that all the oil that gushed for weeks is gone. Thousands of small oil patches remain below the surface, but experts say an astonishing amount has disappeared, reabsorbed into the environment.  

    “[It's] mother nature doing her job,” said Ed Overton, a professor of environmental studies at Louisiana State University.The light crude began to deteriorate the moment it escaped at high pressure, andthen it was zapped with dispersants to speed the process along. The oil that did make it to the ocean’s surface was broken up by 88-degree water, baked by 100-degree sun, eaten by microbes, and whipped apart by wind and waves.” *******************************************************************I’m not comparing the spill in th Michigan River with the BP spill, the river spill is in a more confined area and can’t be diluted the way the I KNEW THE BP SPILL WOULD BE, so while there may be a higher degree of damage, it will be over a relatively small area.  

  • candymarl light brown cracker

    What else can go wrong? I gotta lie down.

  • ProudMilitaryMom

    We are currently looking into a woodsotve and are stocking up on camp stove and lantern fuel.
    All these spills are leading to passage of cap and trade and then we are really screwed. I can not afford one more penny in utility bills. We already keep the heat at 60 at night in the winter and never more than 66 during waking hours.
    Glad I kept all those twin bed blankets- we no longer have kids to use the twin beds but the extra blankets will be coming in handy.

  • HARP

    Just more of the same.

  • Guest

    From what I understand living in the area (the Indiana side !) it is actually extremely unlikely that anything significant will make it to the big lake and the sheer volume of the water will dilute the oil in any case.

    Our civic leader Mayor Daley simply takes every opportunity to tie whatever he can to the Asian carp issue and slip in a few shots at Michigan’s lawsuit regarding the carp before offering his own legal advice.

    “We’re asking the attorney general of the state of Michigan to criminally investigate this and find out where the oil spill [started] and what effect it’s gonna have on our drinking water. Great Lakes mayors . . . are concerned about that. Michigan better do something about the criminal and civil investigation, who’s paying for it and who had the oil spill in the Kalamazoo River because it’s flowing into Lake Michigan.”
     
    Of course, if the oil does reach Lake Michigan as it has already breached the damn and as some officials might fear, the Asian Carp will take a back seat in terms of priority.

  • sowsear

    Weiner is going to have a stroke…

  • Onofre’s arm

    OT ALERT!  Giant Kosher Weiner Explodes in Congressional Microwave!

    http://www.breitbart.tv/rep-anthony-weiner-loses-it-on-house-floor/

  • Tricia

    I had wanted in depth info about this latest disaster. 

    I keep thinking that things can’t get worse…and… 

    Thanks Linda for an excellent story, albeit about yet another sad event.