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Enbridge Stalls on Kalamazoo River Cleanup

Enbridge is resisting the EPA’s order to dredge Michigan’s Kalamazoo River for oil that remains nearly three years after the company’s million-gallon spill there, InsideClimate News reports.

In October 2012, EPA ordered the Canadian oil firm to intensify cleanup efforts along the western Michigan river, where the company’s 30-inch pipeline spilled over 20,000 barrels in July 2010. The proposed order would require Enbridge to install oil containment devices and equipment at three locations by August 2013.

Enbridge asked the EPA to delay issuing its final order until it completes additional scientific studies, and according to a a Nov. 2 letter obtained by InsideClimate News, Enbridge questioned the EPA’s assertion that the submerged oil is “mobile” and could contaminate sections of the river that are already clean.

The website says the Kalamazoo cleanup has been long and difficult because the pipeline was carrying bitumen — an oil so thick it can’t flow through pipelines until mixed with liquid chemicals to dilute it. The diluted bitumen is called dilbit. When it spilled out of the pipeline the chemicals evaporated and the heavy bitumen sank into the riverbed.

According to InsideClimate News, cleanup tools used in conventional oil spills mostly float on water, and therefore don’t work on submerged bitumen.

Two years after the spill, in July 2012, the Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a $3.7 million civil penalty against Enbridge, in the agency’s largest fine ever.

Also in July 2012, a leak closed down the Enbridge Line 14 pipeline in Wisconsin and spilled more than 1,000 barrels of crude — almost exactly two years after the Michigan line ruptured.

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One thought on “Enbridge Stalls on Kalamazoo River Cleanup

  1. The U.S. EPA and Enbridge have worked together to protect the health of the river environment. Enbridge’s position has long been that science, such as the data from the EPA-driven oil quantification studies, should drive next steps. We acknowledge there are areas in the river where sheen can be encountered – and in fact measured this volume at almost 2 gallons in 2012 – but also understand dredging and active recovery may cause incremental damage. Therefore, we believe the Order must take into consideration the impacts of additional response efforts on the community as well as the environment, and in the end, any additional work will result in a positive net benefit to the affected area. Our commitment remains strong and we believe it is essential that local residents have a voice in this process.

    We promised the people of Marshall and Battle Creek that we would make the Kalamazoo River cleaner than before the spill, and we remain firm in our commitment. So it is encouraging that the cleanup, under the direction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), progressed to the point that the Kalamazoo River opened for recreational use in June 2012.

    Paul D. Hunt
    Corporate Director, Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility
    Enbridge Inc.

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