Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Michigan Oil Spill Among Largest In Midwest History

MARSHALL TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- 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 were warning residents about the strong odor from the oil, which leaked Monday from a 30-inch pipeline that carries about 8 million gallons of oil per day from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario.

Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge Inc.'s affiliate Enbridge Energy Partners LP of Houston estimated more than 800,000 gallons of oil spilled into Talmadge Creek before the company could stop the flow. Enbridge crews and contractors deployed oil skimmers and absorbent booms to minimize its environmental impact.

"This is our top priority," said Enbridge spokeswoman Gina Jordan. "We're committed to containing the oil that has been spilled as quickly as possible."

As of Tuesday afternoon, oil was reported in about 16 miles of the Kalamazoo River downstream of the spill, Mary Dettloff, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

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

"The company was originally slow to respond and it is now clear that this is an emergency," Schauer told reporters on a conference call.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Enbridge said it had about 150 employees and contractors working on the spill. Local, state and federal agencies also were involved.

The cause of the spill was under investigation. The oil spilled into the creek, which flows northwest into the river. The site is in Calhoun County's Marshall Township, about 60 miles southeast of Grand Rapids.

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said in a statement that his office has been in close contact with federal agencies to ensure that cleanup crews have the needed resources to complete the job as quickly as possible.

"For now, the focus is on limiting the damage and cleaning up the oil, Levin said. "It is also vitally important that the company responsible for the spill bear the costs of cleanup and that it compensate anyone who has suffered damages related to the spill."

Emmett Township officials warned the public to stay away from the river until cleanup work is completed.

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