Demand Safe Cleanup of Oil Spill

Target: Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

Goal: Remove remaining oil from Kalamazoo River and increase regulations to prevent future oil spills

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 180,000 gallons of remaining oil are on the bottom of the Kalamazoo River as a result of the largest inland oil pipeline spill in U.S. history in 2010. Cleanup efforts have been ineffective and slow while the pipeline’s owner continues to build new pipelines that threaten water quality, marine life and the health of local residents. This petition demands immediate action to remove the remaining oil from Kalamazoo River and increase regulations to prevent future oil spills.

The Kalamazoo spill was the first pipeline spill involving diluted bitumen, a tar-like substance that is more likely to contain destructive heavy metals like arsenic and lead than any other type of oil. Preliminary tests of the river revealed higher than average concentrations of heavy metals and chemicals. After the spill, the bitumen sank to the river bottom while the chemicals evaporated, making local residents sick from its toxic fumes and forcing evacuations. The persistence of oil in the river poses a serious risk to human health, as exposure to heavy metals can lead to nervous system damage.

Another major concern is the remaining oil coming into contact with a nearby Superfund site containing approximately 120,000 pounds of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). Exposure to PCB is linked to severe skin conditions and cancer. Scientists are uncertain of how the toxic chemicals will react when mixed and are trying to prevent the interaction through dredging of oil-contaminated sediment from the lake. However, dredging is an expensive and disruptive process that may cause more harm than good. Enbridge Inc., the pipeline’s owner, has expressed concerns that disrupting large quantities of sediment may “expose long-buried toxins.”

According to Inside Climate News, “the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) is considering a proposal by Enbridge and the EPA to tear down the Ceresco Dam, where much of the remaining oil has settled.” This would make the sediment containing oil more accessible at low water levels while reducing the amount of dredging needed.

Enbridge has since begun construction on a 285-mile replacement pipeline running from Indiana to Ontario, Canada with an even larger carrying capacity. Jeff Insko, author the Line6B Citizens’ blog that critiques Enbridge’s new pipeline, has condemned state politicians and regulatory agencies for their failure to hold Enbridge more accountable for the environmental impact of the project and for ignoring the concerns of affected residents who suffered property loss during the pipe’s construction. Environmentalists have expressed concerns about the water quality in Lake Michigan, a major source of drinking water for 10 million people, in the event of another accident. Stricter regulations must be put in place to manage pipelines more effectively and hold Enbridge more responsible for damage inflicted on the river and local landowners.


Dear Michigan Department of Environmental Quality,

Your inadequate response in aftermath of the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill in 2010 and continued disregard of residents and the environment is unacceptable. We urge you to strongly consider options such as removing the Ceresco Dam to remove oil and reduce the need for destructive dredging and prevent oil from mixing with PCBs at the nearby Superfund site.

With 18,000 gallons of oil remaining in the river, Enbridge continues to construct a replacement pipe that will flow into Lake Michigan. This new pipeline has destroyed property of local homeowners and poses risks to drinking water quality in Lake Michigan.

As Jeff Insko of the Line 6B Citizens’ Blog has stated, your actions have made residents feel “powerless, at the mercy of a corporation that wields overwhelming financial resources, power, and influence.” Your agencies must increase safeguards and oversights for pipeline construction to prevent future oil spills and protect residents and the environment.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Kevin Martini via Flickr

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