Owner of pipeline says oil spill in Michigan river is contained
MARSHALL, Mich. — Volunteers and government officials scrambled Friday to save geese and other wildlife damaged by an oil spill in a southern Michigan river as the Canadian company that owns the ruptured pipeline said the crude had been contained.
Enbridge Inc., based in Calgary, Alberta, said its focus was shifting to cleaning up the spilled oil in the Kalamazoo River, which it estimates at 820,000 gallons. The Environmental Protection Agency puts the total at more than 1 million gallons.
The oil is contained by booms and other devices that can keep it in place until vacuum equipment can suck it up, company spokesman Alan Roth said.
“It’s been captured; it’s not going anywhere,” Roth said.
Company and federal officials say they don’t believe the oil will reach Lake Michigan, where the Kalamazoo River empties about 80 miles from where the oil has been contained. But EPA officials say it could take a couple of months to clean up the spill, and the cause is under investigation.
Hundreds of workers and contractors were working on cleanup. Enbridge said it had recovered 100,800 gallons and estimated that 420,000 gallons are in a holding area and will be pumped into tanks.
“No one is sugarcoating it,” Roth said. “There’s still a tremendous amount of work to do, but good progress is being made.”
Scientists fear the worst may be yet to come for fish in the river. Jay Wesley, a biologist with the State of Michigan, said the oil spill had killed fish in “very limited numbers” along the affected stretch of the river from Marshall westward into Battle Creek.
The bigger problems for fish might come within a week or so, if the oil spill results in decreased oxygen levels in the water. Wesley said insects, algae, frogs and turtles along the river have been killed in high numbers — which could hurt the fish food supply.
“The effects are probably going to be more long-term,” Wesley said. “We probably won’t know the full effects for weeks or months or years.”
A wildlife rehabilitation center staffed and managed by an Enbridge contractor near Marshall had received about 50 injured animals — mostly geese — by midday Friday.
Birds and animals are examined and stabilized before they are decontaminated and the oil is washed away. The stabilization period may take at least 48 hours for a large bird as veterinarians and biologists determine whether it has regained enough strength to go through the decontamination process.
This week, oil seeped up on vegetation and shrubs hugging the shore — turning green leaves to a shimmery black. A rainbow-colored sheen was still visible on parts of the river, which has been closed to fishing, boating and other recreation.
“Communities were built along rivers in Michigan,” Beth Wallace of the National Wildlife Federation said. “It’s the life source of a community. … On this stretch, it will take a long, long time for the river to recover.”