Michigan oil spill harms wildlife, forces residents to evacuate

On Monday, a disastrous leak in one of the world’s largest pipeline systems gushed over 1 million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River, located in southwest Michigan.  Think Progress has the story in this cross-post.

Already, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm has declared the area a disaster zone, quickly activating State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) to ensure all state resources are devoted to oil spill response. “From my perspective, the response has been anemic,” Granholm said. Spill workers and volunteers have been hard at work, cleaning the horrifyingly oily water.

This is not the first failure of Enbridge Inc., the Canadian energy company responsible for the spill. Michigan Messenger’s Todd Heywood reports that, “documents from the agency show that Enbridge Energy pipelines have leaked oil on 12 different occasions in Michigan since 2002.” Furthermore, documents obtained by the Detroit Free Press and other news outlets indicate Enbridge Inc. was “notified twice this year of potential problems involving old pipe prone to rupturing and an inadequate system for monitoring internal corrosion.” While this is one of the biggest threats to a pipeline, it is currently unclear whether Enbridge addressed the notices or if “the concerns played any role in the leak.”

Although Michigan’s spill represents only 32 percent of the amount of oil spilled per day in the ongoing BP oil disaster, the environmental implications of the leak are already clear. Not only has wildlife “” including geese and muskrats “” been coated in oil, but fears also remain high that the oil will contaminate local water supplies. The Calhoun County Health Department has advised residents around the area of the Kalamazoo River oil spill to evacuate, due to “‘higher than acceptable levels of benzene’ in air quality studies.” Benzene, notes the press release from the health department, is a “highly flammable” organic chemical that can lead to a series of symptoms from dizziness to tremors. The long-term effects of benzene exposure, however, are more dire and are linked to excessive bleeding and even cancer in human beings. Enbridge has agreed to reimburse affected families for the cost of hotel stays.

Yesterday, Enbridge spokeswoman Terri Larson said “no fresh oil is leaking from the leak site itself.” Moreover, as the Michigan Messenger reports, “Despite claims by Enbridge CEO Patrick Daniel that the company would reopen the leaking oil pipeline ‘in a matter of days,’ the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has issued a Corrective Action Order directing the company not to reopen the pipeline until a comprehensive safety assessment can be completed.”

Nina Bhattacharya

7 Responses to Michigan oil spill harms wildlife, forces residents to evacuate

  1. BillD says:

    As someone who has spent some time in the area, I know that the Kalamazoo River was a beautiful little river for canoeing and fishing. It has been studied quite a lot by Michigan State scientists working out of the nearby Kellogg Biological Station. There should be fairly good baseline data to judge the effects of the spill on the river’s food chain.

  2. Lore says:

    As a Northern Michigan resident myself, it hits home, that there is no escaping the environmental degradation that can happen anywhere due to our dependence on fossil fuels.

    Death by a thousand cuts.

  3. Prokaryotes says:

    Breaking: Pipe break that caused Michigan oil spill is found

    Enbridge Inc. executive vice president Steve Wuori (WUHR’-ee) says “it is highly unlikely there is any other break in the pipe.”

  4. Prokaryotes says:

    Obama administration: Enbridge knew of issues

    The Obama administration said today it repeatedly warned Enbridge Energy Partners about safety issues along its Lakehead pipeline system, even calling company officials to Washington earlier this year for a meeting on what it deemed “a series of major failures.”

    A comment from Enbridge wasn’t immediately available.

  5. All these stories of oil spills are horrendous. It is as if Nature is going out of its way to inform humankind that oil was hidden away underground for a reason and it should have stayed down there where it could do no harm.

    All across the planet evidence of humankind’s mismanagement stands out to anyone who happens to look. Pollution in the oceans, asphalt covered wastelands in the cities and suburbs, humans morbidly obese and perpetually stressed and incapable of attaining either peace or happiness, wars and rumours of wars … something has gone terribly wrong on the Earth and the problem isn’t going to solve itself.

    Humankind has chosen a dead-end path and our species accelerates along on to its destiny, self-inflicted extinction. All the toys and trinkets of the technology age cannot possibly compensate for what humankind has destroyed and how the human story ultimately will end.

    It is next to impossible to reason with or warn humankind. Our species handles oil in the same way drug addicts love their drug of choice to death. The addiction is self-reinforcing and does not lend itself to reason, rationality or intervention.

    At this point there is little doubt that humankind has crossed all the tipping points and our species has entered into its terminal phase. Technological civilization has already begun to crumble into dust and the pace of destruction is accelerating. Capitalism’s last bubble popped and the ponzi scheme has collapsed for good. All the world’s borrowed money cannot inflate another bubble so capitalism is already effectively dead, as dead and discredited as communism.

    Millions of Americans have fallen through the safety net and they are discovered that human life has an effective intrinsic value of zero within capitalism. Businesses just barely surviving during the faux recovery won’t survival the next big step down economically.

    Peak Oil has occurred. The automotive – airline global mobility age will end forever within a decade. States that need tourism to remain viable (such as Nevada and Florida) will fail.

    But all of these things are like the twilight before the darkness of midnight. It is what comes next which will amount to the apex tragedy in humankind’s history and mark the decline & fall phase of the human species’ life cycle. This planet cannot support a human population measured in billions for any significant length of time … and it won’t.

    Humankind’s future is bleak because of humankind’s many terrible decisions and all of the flaws intrinsic to human nature. I wish that there was some cure available for the species but in this case Nature will take her course and settle this issue in her own way.

  6. Prokaryotes says:

    Michigan oil spill has some asking: Are regulations too lax?
    Many want new rules, but some wonder how far they should go

  7. Amber Whipple says:

    We live in Augusta. About a block and a half from the Kalamazoo River. My husband has been very ill for the last 5 days. Migrains and Sick to his stomach, dizziness. He has even been to the hspital twice because the headache is to much to bare. I also went to the hospital for the same thing last week and since I have had on and off headaches. I believe they should have been evacuating this area as well. EnBridge have not been door to door around this area as they say on News 3. They do work day and night down the road here where the river is, but I have attempted to reach out to them, because they have not done so themselves like they say, and the 1-800 number they posted, the lady said they would have to give us a call back. No one has called or showed up to the house to test the water. We dont have family to go to some where else, and we are a low income family who can not afford to stay some where and be reimbursed, but we cant live like this. where do we go from here. What can we do?