One of the biggest oil spills ever in the Midwest.
An underground pipeline that carries crude oil from Indiana to Ontario sprung a leak earlier this week. The EPA estimates more than 1 million gallons of oil have spilled into a creek near Marshall, Michigan. Now oil has flowed into the Kalamazoo River.
Officials are hoping to stop the oil before it gets into Morrow Lake, which is about 60 miles from Lake Michigan.
(UPDATE 6:15pm – 7/29/10: The EPA and Enbridge say the oil has not reached Morrow Lake. Several dozen homes in the area are being evacuated)
Here’s Police Captain Tom Sands. He did a flyover Wednesday afternoon to assess the damage.
SANDS: Some of the oil has gone over the dam and it’s a very light sheen at that point, once the water mixes over the dam you see a little bit of sheen on the river.
GRANHOLM: The situation is very serious.
That’s Governor Granholm. She says Enbridge Energy Partners, the Canadian company responsible for the leak, and the EPA had promised to send more resources to try to contain the spill.
GRANHOLM: And the new resources that have been provided so far are wholly inadequate.
Health officials say the area where the spill occurred is highly toxic. They want people to stay away from the river. That means no boating, no fishing, no swimming.
When I drove to Marshall yesterday, I could smell the oil from the highway. Basically everywhere you go in Marshall you can smell the oil.
Kayla Nelson lives in Marshal and she says it’s bad.
NELSON: I’m kinda scared to drink the water but I’m not sure. I haven’t heard anything but I’m just kind scared myself to drink it.
EPA officials are testing the water to see if it’s safe to drink. A county official I talked to said if people are worried about it, they should not boil the water. Instead, he recommends drinking bottled water.
Michigan Radio’s Jennifer Guerra has also been following the story. So Jen, Enbridge has promised to not only pay for the cleanup but to cleanup everything. Is that really possible?
GUERRA: Well, I talked to Peter Adriaens, he’s a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Michigan, and he says no.
ADRIAENS: We cannot restore the site to exactly to what it was before any spill occurred. All we can remedy it as much as possible, minimize the exposure of wildlife and we can minimize health effects and we can try to contain it.
GUERRA: The official cause of the leak is unknown. Enbridge did shut down the pipeline, but there are questions as to when Enbridge knew about the leak and when they reported it to the authorities.
WILLIAMS: Right, residents like Debbie Trescott say they could smell oil on Sunday. She lives southwest of Marshall.
TRESCOTT: Sunday morning I came in to get groceries and it was about 9:30 in the morning, maybe 10 o’clock and I smelled this oil. This was just horrible, and as I almost got to A drive it was just a horrible smell and I knew then that something must be wrong.
WILLIAMS: So, Trescott smelled oil Sunday morning, but the energy company says they didn’t detect the spill until around 10:30 Monday morning.
GUERRA: Right, so now that the oil is there, we wondered what the long term effects are. I asked Peter Adriaens, he’s the professor at U of M, and he said one of the many chemicals in oil is benzene. It’s a neurotoxin, which is bad, so if you have a big oil spill like the one in the Kalmazoo River in the summer, that benzene can evaporate and gets into the air quickly.
ADRIAENS: Inhalation of high concentrations in the air is very toxic from neurological and a number of other perspectives.
GUERRA: Again, that’s a possible long term effect.
WILLIAMS: Thanks Jen
WILLIAMS: The smell is so bad in Marshall, that a lot of people near the spill site are relocating to hotels, but now all the hotels in the area are booked, so the Red Cross has set up a shelter for people who want to leave their homes. The energy company officials say they’ll have frequent updates, but last night they canceled a press conference two minutes before it was scheduled to begin.
That’s the Environment Report. I’m Rebecca Williams.