Com­pany was warned be­fore leak in michi­gan

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION -

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.

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