It’s being called a major environmental disaster in Michigan — and possibly the worst Midwest oil spill ever. A company operating a pipeline that dumped an estimated 877,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo river says it’s doubling its work force on the containment and cleanup effort.
Officials with Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge Inc. made the announcement during a Wednesday update on the spill. The company had about 200 employees and contractors working on the spill a day earlier.
The Environmental Protection Agency also is bringing in additional contractors.
Oil leaking from a 30-inch pipeline coated birds and fish as it poured into a creek and flowed into the Kalamazoo River, one of the state’s major waterways, before it was shut off Monday.
Patrick Daniel, the Enbridge president and CEO, said they had about 200 Enbridge workers and contractors at the spill site yesterday near Marshall, but he said more are on the way.
“We’re going to double our workforce today,” Daniel said. “We have sought and will continue to seek all expert advise and help that we can get in insuring this leak is properly contained and cleaned up.”
Daniel said he expects to begin excavating to access the pipe in order to get into the very initial stages of investigation into the cause of the leak, which is being done in conjunction with federal agencies.
Enbridge officials said the spill was detected between 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m., However, Michigan Congressman Mark Schauer released a document saying the incident was not reported to the National Response Center until about 1:30 p.m.
Authorities in Battle Creek are now warning residents about the strong odor from the oil, which started leaking Monday from a 30-inch pipeline that carries oil from Indiana to Sarnia. Health officials are also testing the air near the spill, with the primary concern being the possible presence of the cancer-causing chemical benzene.
Resident Jerry Rinehart is worried about the wildlife near his home. “We got beavers that are here, I’ve seen them several times, and if the oil gets here, we’re going to lose them,” Rinehart said.
WOOD TV Reporter Dee Morrison spent Wednesday morning watching crews as they mopped up the spill.
“So far we’ve already found dozens of animals – birds, geese, an otter that the wildlife service is trying to clean up – that are coated in this oil,” Morrison said.
“We’ve seen dead fish and turtles, that’s the wildlife issue, they’ve also had to evacuate a couple of homes and they’re telling people absolutely stay out of the water,” she said.
Morrison said it’s gathered along the shoreline and along rocks.
She said one reporter dunked a piece of paper in the water that came up covered in black, thick oil.
Homeowners are finding animals on their property covered in oil and are being advised to call and to wait for crews to come out and clean animals, Morrison said.
Governor Granholm toured the area by helicopter last evening, then met with state and federal officials for a briefing. She said more resources should be devoted to cleaning up the spill.
President Barack Obama, meanwhile, has pledged a swift response to requests for help in dealing with the spill. Congressman Mark Schauer of Battle Creek updated the president about the spill yesterday — and says Mr. Obama asked what the U.S. government could do to provide additional help.
(Photo by Jonathon Gruenke/Kalamazoo Gazette – www.mlive.com/kzgazette)
Copyright, 2010. WWJ Radio, All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.