Archive for July, 2010

Kalamazoo River Oil Disaster Response

July 30, 2010

Earlier this week, an oil pipeline beneath Marshall, Michigan (about 70 miles west of Ann Arbor), burst and released between 800,000 and 1,000,000 gallons of oil into Talmadge Creek, a small tributary of the Kalamazoo River. The oil quickly flowed into the river and has travelled 35 miles downstream, where it is about 60 miles from Lake Michigan. The pipeline has been shut off so no more oil should be released into the river, but the pipeline is underground and the EPA has not confirmed whether the oil has indeed stopped entering the stream.

Visit for more on the disaster.

Oil in the Kalamazoo River

Oil in the Kalamazoo River | National Wildlife Federation

Federal and state officials are working with the pipeline owner, Enbridge, to try to contain the spill, recover the oil, and protect and rehabilitate damaged wildlife. U.S. EPA is the incident commander for the spill. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, the Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, the Coast Guard, and the Michigan DNRE also are part of the response team.
As of noon today (Thursday), federal and state officials believe that they have largely contained the spill in Morrow Lake, an impoundment of the Morrow Dam just east of Kalamazoo. They say that they have removed approximately 2,500 barrels of oil from the river, or about 10 percent of the spill. 

NWF staff on site this morning verified that the spill did not appear to have gotten to the dam. Officials are also making contingency plans for actions at Lake Allegan, another 30 miles downstream from Morrow Pond (near Allegan), if the spill is not contained earlier. Despite comments by Governor Granholm this morning indicating otherwise, officials appear to be confident that the spill will not reach Lake Michigan or the wetlands complexes near Saugatuck. However, the damage to the areas along the Kalamazoo River is severe. Toxic fumes have made evacuations necessary and residents along the river have been warned to boil their water before using it. Oiled birds and dead fish have been discovered, but there is little information about the extent of the wildlife damage; the pipeline company, Enbridge, appears to be concealing that.

Although this spill is very small compared to the Gulf spill, it has been called the largest oil spill in the Midwest. To provide a sense of perspective, the Kalamazoo River spill is about 10 percent of the size of the Exxon Valdez spill. Because it is in a medium-sized river, the spill is highly concentrated and will stay that way until it is removed or diffuses in Morrow Lake, Lake Allegan, and Lake Michigan itself.

National and regional media have been reporting on the spill, including the New York Times and the Detroit Free Press. NWF has issued a statement. Our office has a team of people on the ground in Marshall, Battle Creek and Kalamazoo tracking the spill and the wildlife recovery efforts.

As we learned from the Gulf disaster, this is all unfolding rapidly and we are still learning critical information. We have hopes that despite its size, this spill will be quickly contained and much of the oil slick removed. The impacts on the river and its wildlife are still unknown; I believe we’ll be dealing with those impacts for years.


Dammit, It’s Happening Here

July 27, 2010

Oil spill in the Kalamazoo River | Photo from the National Wildlife Federation

We just heard that at least 877,000 gallons of oil has leaked from an oil pipeline into the Kalamazoo River in Marshall, Michigan.  

The oil has moved 16 miles downstream and has already killed fish; the fumes have forced some people to evacuate; wildlife is getting coated with oil; shorelines are getting fouled; and containment efforts have been hampered by the high flows in the river because of all the rain. A federal-state response team has swung into action. 

Meanwhile, the company owning the pipeline, Enbridge, Inc., couldn’t initially be reached for comment, other than to a message saying that it hoped it had not caused any “inconvenience” to the community. Since then the company has issued an apology. 

We just released the statement below. We’ll provide updates as we learn more.  

Pipeline Spews 845,000 Gallons of Oil into Michigan Waters, Threatening Great Lakes 

National Wildlife Federation: ‘Michigan has become another casualty to our country’s addiction to oil and dirty fuels.’ 

ANN ARBOR, MICH. (July 27, 2010)—A major oil spill has dumped a reported 845,000 gallons of oil into a creek that feeds into the Kalamazoo River, sparking a state of emergency in Kalamazoo County and sparking fears will not be able to contain the massive spill before it reaches Lake Michigan. 

Commenting on the oil spill, Danielle Korpalski, Midwest regional outreach coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation, said: 

“We never thought it would happen here. When people throughout Michigan responded to the Gulf oil spill with an outpouring of money, concern, and support for those who live on the Gulf, we never thought we would share that awful feeling of watching a massive oil slick flowing through our waters, coating our wildlife, killing fish, and fouling our coastline. We never thought we’d see evacuations in Michigan because of the fumes from an oil spill. And we never thought we’d see almost a million gallons of oil poised to flow into the Great Lakes. 

“But today, that’s exactly what we’re seeing. 

“Michigan has become another casualty to our country’s addiction to oil and dirty fuels. 

“This massive oil spill is a wake-up call that our nation’s energy policies are failing. 

“From the Gulf Coast to the Midwest, people are paying a steep price for a national energy policy that is addicted to dirty and dangerous fossil fuels—and the results can be seen in our backyards, in our communities and in our nation’s cherished waters and wild places. 

“This oil spill is only the latest evidence that the nation needs to move toward cleaner, safer sources of energy. It’s time to head in a new direction—one which holds the opportunity to make the energy technologies of the future while creating jobs, strengthening our national security, and improving our environment.”