Major announcement expected over 2010 oil spill

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News

A “major announcement” is expected Wednesday from the U.S. Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency related to the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill.

Officials with the federal agencies will be in Marshall on Wednesday morning to discuss the announcement.

Roughly six years ago, an underground pipeline operated by Enbridge Energy ruptured in an area beneath Talmadge Creek, which is near Marshall, sending 800,000 gallons of crude oil into the creek linked to the river.

It is regarded as the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history and it resulted in portions of a 38-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo being closed for several years. The disaster brought health concerns, fish advisories, loss of access to the river, loss of business and, in some cases, loss of homes.

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board said the rupture was caused by “corrosion fatigue cracks that grew and coalesced” in the 30-inch diameter pipeline. Enbridge was faulted for “pervasive organizational failures” that included allowing the “well-documented” crack defects that led to the line bursting.

Since the spill, the Alberta-based company has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on cleanup work and compensation for those affected.

In 2015, Enbridge and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials reached a $75 million settlement over the impacts to the river. Dan Wyant, DEQ’s director at that time, praised the deal not only for the monetary aspects but for the river improvements Enbridge had agreed to make — those included boat launches, as well as shoreline and habitat restoration.

“It’s a rare kind of settlement because it focuses very specifically on the river,” Wyant said in an email then. “There are so many things we’ve wanted to do to help the Kalamazoo River, work that has needed to be done for decades, but there wasn’t a revenue source to make it happen.

“We are excited that this agreement brings those long-overdue improvements directly to the water body impacted by the spill. It’s a resolution everyone should feel good about, because it will mean a healthier, more accessible river for everyone to enjoy.”

Wednesday’s announcement is also expected to address another Enbridge oil spill — the Sept. 2010 leak in Romeoville, Illinois. That incident led to the release of 250,000 gallons of crude oil.

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