oil spill

Aaron Selbig

CORRECTION 4/13: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the U.S. Coast Guard said damage to an electric transmission line under the Straits of Mackinac may have been caused by an "anchor strike." The Coast Guard says the leak may have been caused by "damage from vessel activity."

Governor Rick Snyder is asking Enbridge Energy to accelerate it’s decommissioning of the Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

Aaron Selbig

The U.S. Coast Guard has organized a command post in Mackinaw City to respond to a mineral oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac. Around 600 gallons of fluid leaked from underwater electrical lines west of the Mackinac Bridge earlier this week. 

 


Why a 36-year-old Michigan oil spill still matters today

May 11, 2016

A Michigan oil spill is still bringing in new questions, even after its events took place over 30 years ago.

It was around 1980 when Canadian oil transport company Enbridge leaked five barrels of oil into the Hiawatha National Forest. However, they were only able to clean up four of the barrels, leaving the area contaminated to this day.

The same company owns 63-year-old pipelines that run under the Straits of Mackinac, causing concern over the safety of Michigan's shorelines.

Detroit Free Press reporter Keith Matheny joined Cynthia Canty on Stateside to understand why this spill still matters today.

There are some new questions bubbling up concerning a decades-old oil spill in the Upper Peninsula.

Around 1980, Canadian oil transport company Enbridge discovered its Line 5 oil pipeline had sprung a leak and spilled an estimated five barrels of oil in the Hiawatha National Forest.

Yes, that’s the same Line 5 whose twin pipelines run under the Straits of Mackinac.

Oil is flowing through Enbridge’s new pipeline in southern Michigan, but people who live along the pipeline say the job isn’t done yet.

Enbridge’s new Line 6B pipeline is in the ground and in service.  It runs for 285 miles across the state from Griffith, Indiana to Marysville, Michigan.

The company installed this new pipeline after their old pipeline burst and caused a massive oil spill in 2010.

To replace it, they had to cut down trees and tear up people’s land. Enbridge has hired contractors to restore those properties in phases.

But some landowners in the first phase of the project say they’re still waiting for work to be wrapped up.

We've been working to find an answer to the question, "What's the status of the aged Enbridge oil pipeline running through Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac?"

Federal, state, and local agencies took part in a mock oil spill Wednesday in northern Michigan along the Indian River.

The emergency drill conjured memories of the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill. About a million gallons of crude oil have been cleaned up from that spill. There’s some concern about whether Enbridge has made important internal changes to avoid future pipeline problems.

Carl Weimer with the Pipeline Safety Trust said one of the reasons Enbridge failed to prevent the pipeline break near Marshall, Michigan in July 2010 is not because the company was completely unaware of corrosion and a cracks in the pipeline.

He says Enbridge inspection teams weren’t sharing information with each other.

It's been four years since the Enbridge pipeline Line 6B broke, creating the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

More than a million gallons of tar sands oil have been cleaned up from Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. This summer, crews are dredging areas of Morrow Lake.

Steve Hamilton is a professor of ecosystem ecology at the Kellogg Biological Station at Michigan State University. He’s served as an independent scientific advisor to the Environmental Protection Agency throughout the cleanup. I talked with him for today's Environment Report.

A few years ago, right in the heart of the cleanup, an EPA official said the agency was "writing the book" on how to remove tar sands oil from the bottom of a river.

Hamilton agrees: "First, before it even got to the bottom, we learned that in the first year, it stuck to surfaces of plants and debris that made a tarry mess that largely had to be manually removed." 

He says it was the removal of the submerged oil that made the cleanup last as long as it has.

"It is so incredibly difficult to remove submerged oil from a complex river, extending over nearly 40 miles."

We've just marked the 25th anniversary of one of the most catastrophic man-made environmental disasters, the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

It was just after midnight on March 24, 1989 when the Exxon Valdez struck a reef in Prince William Sound. 11 million gallons of crude oil gushed into the pristine waters.

The clean-up effort was staggering. Among those called to help was U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Commander Thomas Haas. He was a chemist and an expert in hazmat cleanup. Twenty-five years later, that Lt. Commander is the president of Grand Valley State University.

“We had to figure out what clean meant,” Haas said.

This week marks four years since a pipeline operated by Enbridge Energy burst. It was a segment of Line 6B located just downstream from the pump station in Marshall.

The result? More than 1,000,000 gallons of oil have been recovered from Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

Michigan Radio's West Michigan reporter Lindsey Smith and The Environment Report’s Rebecca Williams joined Stateside to talk about the effects of the spill four years later.

The spill affected about 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River, from Marshall downstream close to Kalamazoo. The bulk of the oil has been cleaned up. Smith said the river is still useable; you can swim, fish, and do other things that you could do before the spill. 

However, cleanup is still going on. The EPA is dredging Morrow Lake this summer and there are still areas of the river that are closed. Williams said there might always be some oil left in the area.

“What agencies here in Michigan have said is that you often don’t want to take all the oil out of sensitive habitats because you could end up doing more damage,” Williams said.

Smith said the dredging process can be very invasive and hurt a lot of habitats. After the ordered dredging is over, there will be more passive collection, that won’t be as harsh on the environment.

An oil spill from a BP refinery in Whiting, Ind., this week has raised new worries about the stepped-up processing of Canadian tar sands – and threats to Lake Michigan.

Considering that seven million people in Chicagoland depend on Lake Michigan for drinking water, even a little spill might be cause for concern.

Exactly what was spilled? How far did it spread? And has BP contained the leak?

We're joined now by Michael Hawthorne, a reporter with The Chicago Tribune.

Listen to the full interview above.

Enbridge Energy is still cleaning up oil left over from its pipeline spill in the Kalamazoo River.  

The company has already recovered most of the oil, but it's still working to comply with an order from the federal regulators, who say they need to clean up another 180,000 gallons. 

According to Enbridge's new plan, they can start that cleanup March 15. But that's all dependent on this crazy weather. Right now, everything is frozen. But, if spring warms things up and there's flooding, that can also be problematic for the dredging process. 

North Dakota and western Canada are producing crude oil faster than it can be shipped to refineries.

Rail car manufacturers can't make new tank cars fast enough, and new pipeline proposals face long delays over environmental concerns. So energy companies are looking for new ways to get the heavy crude to market.

One proposed solution is to ship the oil by barge over the Great Lakes — but it's a controversial one.

Kalamazoo Spill: Environment Group Sues, EPA Vows Cleanup

Aug 3, 2010

The Great Lakes Environmental Law Center has notified a Canadian company it intends to file suit for violations of the Clean Water Act. Enbridge, Inc., based in Calgary, operates the pipeline that ruptured last week spilling oil into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River.

Since Monday, up to a million gallons of crude oil has been working its way down the Kalamazoo River, which runs to Lake Michigan. And volunteers in the City of Battle Creek have been helping to find and report wildlife injured by the spill.  

Feds Cautious About Effort
People from as far away as Muskegon and Detroit gathered in a parking lot at the Battle Creek Police Department Thursday afternoon, saying they were determined to do whatever they could to help wild animals affected by the oil leak.