COMSTOCK TWP. (WWJ/AP) – A dredging plan to help clean up the Kalamazoo River after a 2010 southwestern Michigan oil spill has prompted concerns from area residents and the owner of Bell’s Brewery.
The Comstock Township Board of Trustees heard from representatives from pipeline company Enbridge Inc. and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality on Monday about the dredging project, the Kalamazoo Gazette reported.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered dredging in March and crews arrived at Morrow Lake last month to begin laying the pipeline. The pipeline will carry submerged oil, contaminated sediment and water during dredging, said Enbridge spokesman Jason Manshum.
Dredging is planned in portions of the Kalamazoo River, Morrow Lake Delta and Morrow Lake, and de-watered sediment will be sent to a landfill.
Comstock Township residents, however, said preliminary work began without their knowledge.
“Why weren’t we notified of this?” asked Kelly Blaisdell. “Why is our little neighborhood taking the brunt of an Enbridge mistake?”
Project opponents including Larry Bell, owner of Bell’s Brewery Inc., said he is worried that his brewery will be negatively impacted by the nearby work site.
“It’s very important for us to have clean water and clean air around the facility. That water will flow right into my brewery. That air will blow right into my brewery,” he said. “This makes me worried I’ll lose my business. People will not want to buy my beer if they think it might be contaminated.”
Jennifer Newton, who lives in the area, said she is worried about the health of her three young girls.
“This site is parallel to my backyard,” Newton said. “When you bring up those materials, what are the short-term health effects? What are the long-term health effects?”
The DEQ said it plans to get the concerns of residents to proper officials. The EPA has given Enbridge a deadline of Dec. 31 to finish the dredging project, so Manshum said the project needs to go “efficiently and safely.” He said he would discuss concerns with others at the company.
More than 800,000 gallons spewed into the river and a tributary creek in July 2010 after the rupture of an underground pipeline near Marshall.
Oil flowed about 35 miles before it was contained. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the rupture was caused by cracks and corrosion, and the agency faulted Enbridge for failing to take steps that might have prevented it.
The 286-mile-long pipeline extends from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario. Enbridge is replacing and enlarging the line, part of a $2.6 billion project to boost the flow of oil to refineries in the eastern U.S. and Canada.
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