Company was warned before leak in michigan
BRADENTON, Fla. — Louisiana fishermen pray their livelihood will return, hoteliers in Alabama wait for the phones to ring, and New Orleans’ finest chefs cook up public relations strategies rather than po-boys — all because oil has touched their shorelines.
The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill has delivered two blows to the states that border the Gulf of Mexico: the actual presence of oil, and the perception that oil is everywhere. From Louisiana’s oil-polluted marshes to Florida’s sugarywhite sands, most of which remained free of oil’s taint, officials worry that they can’t restore the region’s battered image.
“The damage, it has been done,” said Mike Foster, vice president of marketing for the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau in Alabama. “This is both real damage and damage caused by perception. But we’re not soaking and dripping in oil.”
For two weeks, no oil has flowed into the Gulf since BP engineers managed to seal the well with a containment cap. The amount of oil on the water’s surface has dropped to the point where officials say they are having a hard time finding it. Mississippi has begun scaling back the number of boats assigned to search for oil and has begun hauling in the miles of boom that had been strung along the coast.
Still, officials worry that not everyone will react like Kristie Taylor, 32, a resident of Tuscaloosa, Ala., who vacationed this year at Gulf Shores, Ala., as she had as a child. Although she dreaded the oil pollution, she couldn’t stand the thought of skipping a summer there.
“I felt like I was at a funeral,” she said. “It was just this looming feeling that something bad had happened. My 2-yearold daughter kept asking why she couldn’t go in the water. I just kept telling her the beach is hurt, but it’s going to feel better.” Mississippi has begun scaling back its search for oil and has begun hauling in the miles of boom that had been strung along the coast. A team works Thursday in Long Beach, Miss.
Taylor plans to visit again next year and the year after.
“It was still the same wonderful people there; the wonderful food was there; even the waves and sound of the ocean were the same,” Taylor said. “We still believe the beach will come back; we’re cheering on everyone else to go. But it broke my heart to see that.”
The company responsible for a massive oil spill in Battle Creek, Mich., was warned in January by federal regulators about insufficient monitoring of corrosion on the pipeline that federal officials say leaked more than 1 million gallons of oil into a major waterway this week.
The owner of the pipeline, Enbridge Energy Partners, received several citations from federal regulators in recent years before the warning in January. Company officials said they had routinely tested the pipeline for corrosion.
“There was annual maintenance on 6B this year as with all of our pipelines,” Patrick Daniel, the chief executive, said Thursday, referring to the pipeline that leaked oil into the Kalamazoo River.
Federal officials said the estimated amount of oil that spilled from the pipeline into the river Monday was more than 1 million gallons, significantly more than the company’s estimate of about 800,000 gallons. The leak was in a 30-inch pipeline that carries millions of gallons of oil each day from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario.
Daniel said the company used internal inspection tools to determine the levels of corrosion or cracking on all pipelines. There had not been any repairs or replacements made to the part of the pipe where the spill took place, he said.
State officials have expressed grave concern over the environmental impact if the spill reaches Lake Michigan, more than 60 miles away. Officials for the Environmental Protection Agency, which is leading the response efforts, said Thursday that they were confident that they could prevent that from happening.