National

Jul 28, 2010 8:56 AM by Bea Karnes, News First 5

Pipeline leak pollutes major Michigan river

Crews were working Tuesday to contain and clean up more than 800,000 gallons of oil that poured into a creek and flowed into the Kalamazoo River in southern Michigan, coating birds and fish.

Authorities in Battle Creek and Emmett Township warned residents about the strong odor from the oil, which leaked Monday from a 30-inch pipeline built in 1969 that carries about 8 million gallons of oil per day from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario.

Crews waded in oily water as they worked to stop the oil's advance downstream. Oil-covered Canada geese walked along the banks of the Kalamazoo River, and photos showed dead fish floating in the spill. The Kalamazoo River eventually flows into Lake Michigan, but officials didn't expect the oil to reach the lake.

"This is just a disaster," said Raymond Woodman, 33, of Emmett Township, who watched workers use a vacuum truck to suck oil from the water at the Ceresco Dam, downstream from leak. "It shouldn't matter how much it costs to clean this up. They need to clean it up."

Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge Inc.'s affiliate Enbridge Energy Partners LP of Houston estimated about 819,000 gallons of oil spilled into Talmadge Creek before the company stopped the flow. Enbridge crews and contractors deployed oil skimmers and absorbent booms to minimize its environmental impact.

"We are going to do what it takes to make this right," Enbridge's president and CEO Patrick D. Daniel said during a news conference in Battle Creek.

The company 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. Groundwater testing also was planned. Authorities evacuated two homes near the leak, and some locals said they were concerned about the fumes. But there were no reports of sickened residents.

As of Tuesday afternoon, oil was reported in about 16 miles of the Kalamazoo River downstream of the spill, said Mary Dettloff, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment. She said state officials were told during a company briefing that an estimated 877,000 gallons spilled - a figure more than 50,000 gallons higher than the company's public estimate.

U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer, D-Mich., said he discussed the spill with President Barack Obama. Schauer called the spill a "public health crisis," and said he plans to hold hearings to examine the response.

 

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