Million Gallons of Oil Spill into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River

LANSING, Michigan, July 29, 2010 (ENS) – Oil spill response workers said Thursday that they have stopped the spread of oil heading down the Kalamazoo River from a broken pipeline in southwest Michigan, but officials from various agencies differ on how far the oil has moved and whether or not the oil leak has, in fact, been stopped.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has assumed the role of Federal On-Scene Coordinator and EPA officials said Lake Michigan and drinking water sources for the city of Kalamazoo appear to be safe.

EPA has responsibility under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 for this spill because it happened inland, rather than offshore.

On Monday, a 30 inch pipeline belonging to Enbridge Inc. burst in Marshall, Michigan, releasing hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil into Talmadge Creek, a tributary of the Kalamazoo River.

The spill has affected up to 25 miles of the Kalamazoo River. The spill site, located between Marshall and Battle Creek, includes marshlands, residential areas, farmland and businesses.

Booms help to contain oil near the Talmadge Creek, Kalamazoo River junction, Marshall, Michigan. (Photo courtesy Government of Michigan)

Officials with Enbridge Energy Partners, said they had stanched the leak, but on Thursday afternoon a flow of oil could be seen beyond a containment dike moving into the Kalamazoo River.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, “This is a serious spill that has the potential to damage a vital waterway and threatens public health. Staff from EPA’s regional and headquarters office are on the scene and ensuring the leaked oil is contained and cleaned up as quickly and effectively as possible.”

While the EPA says the oil leak has been stopped, the agency says over a million gallons of oil may have leaked into the river. The Kalamazoo River is a fast-moving river and EPA’s focus right now is on preventing oil from the Enbridge spill from affecting sensitive shorelines and, ultimately, keeping the oil out of Lake Michigan.

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm today continued to push for sufficient resources to adequately address the oil spill. The governor has asked the U.S. Coast Guard to assess the situation and provide recommendations for stopping the advance of oil.

On Wednesday, EPA requested the U.S. Coast Guard make $2 million available to fund the federal government’s operations in response to the spill. EPA can request additional funding if it determines more is needed. The federal government intends to seek full reimbursement for all money spent on this response from the responsible party, Enbridge, Inc.

Governor Granholm Tuesday declared a state of disaster in Calhoun County and potentially affected areas along the Kalamazoo River downstream of Talmadge Creek.

“Our focus is protecting Michigan citizens and our environment by providing any needed state resources to expediently address the situation,” said Granholm. “Officials with several state agencies are actively engaged in this response effort and are working in concert with local and federal agencies to ensure that our response is timely and effective.”

State agencies were on scene today meeting with local, state, federal, and private sector responders, and providing help to citizens and wildlife impacted by the spill. The state has activated a Joint Information Center to coordinate the dissemination of public information to the news media.

Michigan today launched a new website with response efforts and public information at: http://www.michigan.gov/oilspill.

The Michigan National Guard, 51st Civil Support Team is conducting air monitoring in conjunction with the EPA. All air monitoring results will be released by the EPA at http://www.epa.gov/enbridgespill/. Staff from the Michigan Department of Community Health will consult on necessary monitoring and possible health effects.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture has issued an irrigation and watering advisory for the entire length of the Kalamazoo River, which includes creeks or small streams entering the Kalamazoo River.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment is on site working with Focus Wildlife, a contractor hired by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to handle wildlife recovery and cleaning efforts. Citizens are asked not to try to clean any impacted wildlife, as one quart of oil can contaminate up to two million gallons of drinking water.

People who encounter impacted wildlife should call 1-800-306-6837. Persons wishing to donate items toward wildlife cleanup efforts can call the United Way’s 2-1-1 free referral service.

People are advised avoid the general area of the spill, avoid contact with affected waterways and wildlife, and not to eat fish from Talmadge Creek or the Kalamazoo River.

Residents with concerns or those with oil on their property can call the Enbridge hotline at 1-800-306-6837.

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