Kalamazoo River oil spill headed for Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan

Unless the Kalamazoo River oil spill is contained, Lake Michigan might start looking oily. Image: Flickr/pagedooley

In Southwest Michigan, a state of emergency has been declared in response to the Kalamazoo River oil spill. At 9:45 a.m. on Monday morning, an oil pipeline began leaking 19,500 barrels of oil into the river. The resulting oil slick is moving quickly in the water, and the EPA and Enbridge Energy are working to control it.

The Kalamazoo River oil spill

The Kalamazoo River Michigan oil spill started when a pipe developed a leak. The cause of the leak is not yet known, but it was not immediately shut down. Thus far, the operator of the pipeline, Enbridge Energy estimates that more than 800,000 gallons of oil dumped into the river. Only about 60 miles away from Lake Michigan, the Kalamazoo River oil spill is quickly moving toward the lake. Residents are already reporting heavy fumes and oil-coated wildlife along the waterways.

Enbridge Energy takes responsibility for Michigan oil spill

Enbridge Energy, which is based in Houston, Texas, has already said it would “do all it can to minimize the spill’s impact on communities.” The 30-inch pipeline was used to carry crude oil from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario. Enbridge Energy has been providing information and clean-up services. Governor Jennifer Granholm, among others, has questioned dedication to the clean-up. While Enbridge has estimated that 819,000 gallons have spilled, other experts have put the number at 1 million gallons or more. Cleanup will likely cost several hundred million dollars.

Calling the EPA in to the Michigan oil spill

The governor of Michigan has asked for the EPA to come in to help clean up the Kalamazoo River oil spill. Government helicopters have already been used to fly over the spill location to observe the sheen and estimate the extent of damage. There is also concern about the Kalamazoo River Superfund cleanup site. The polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs found in the superfund site could interact with the chemicals that evaporate off the oil. This could cause very dangerous toxic fumes. The EPA has not yet committed to helping clean up the Kalamazoo River oil spill, though they will most likely have heavy involvement — financial or otherwise —  in the cleanup.


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