EPA: 1 million gallons of oil leaked into Michigan river
Thu, 29 Jul 2010 20:03:40 GMT —
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) " A Canadian company whose pipeline leaked hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into a Michigan river was warned by government regulators in January that its monitoring of corrosion in the pipeline was insufficient.
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration told Enbridge Energy Partners Chairman Terry McGill in a Jan. 21 letter that its corrosion monitoring in Line 6B, the line that ruptured, did not comply with federal regulations.
According to the warning, Enbridge was implementing an alternate way of monitoring corrosion in the pipeline, and had detailed to regulators the steps it was taking to track corrosion in the meantime.
But the agency warned the company in the letter that it was violating code by not using certain chemicals used to protect pipe interiors, not using proper monitoring equipment to determine it those chemicals were working, and not examining its monitoring equipment at least twice a year.
"The transition from one technology to another must be implemented in a manner that ensures continued compliance with the regulations," the agency wrote.
Enbridge spokeswoman Lorraine Grymala said Thursday she has no comment about the letter,
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the leak dumped more than 1 million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River and a creek that flows into it on Monday. The company's estimate is smaller " 819,000 gallons.
By late Wednesday, the oil had traveled at least 35 miles downstream from where it leaked in Calhoun County's Marshall Township, killing fish, coating other wildlife and emitting a strong, unpleasant odor.
It had passed through Battle Creek, a city of 52,000 residents about 110 miles west of Detroit, and was headed toward Morrow Lake, a key point near a Superfund site upstream of Kalamazoo, the largest city in the region. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has warned of a "tragedy of historic proportions" should the oil reach Lake Michigan some 80 miles away, and the vacation communities that depend on it.
State and company officials had said earlier this week they didn't believe the oil would spread past a dam at the lake, and that they would be able to contain it there.
But Tom Sands, the deputy state director for emergency management and homeland security, said during a conference call with Granholm on Wednesday that he had seen oil that had made it past the dam while he was flying over the area.
On Thursday, EPA spokesman Mick Hans said its incident commander was in the same plane as Sands and wasn't convinced oil had passed the dam. Hans said the EPA, however, wasn't trying to take issue with the report.
"We're all working together," Hans said. "Sometimes you get different technical interpretations."
The company's latest update statement Wednesday said oil was about seven miles short of the opening to Morrow Lake.
Granholm on Wednesday called on the federal government for more help, saying resources being marshaled by the EPA and Enbridge were "wholly inadequate."
The Calgary, Alberta-based company said Wednesday and Thursday that it was ramping up its efforts to contain and clean up the mess. Chief executive Patrick D. Daniel said the company had made "significant progress," though he had no update on a possible cause, cost or timeframe for the cleanup.
Workers and contractors were using vacuum trucks and absorbent booms to contain and clean the spill, and the company was bringing in more help, Enbridge spokeswoman Lorraine Grymala said Thursday.
"We're getting them here as quickly as we can," Grymala said.
The overall workforce on the spill Wednesday was likely more than 400 people. EPA officials said they're ramping up efforts with air and water testing. Local officials said they weren't concerned about municipal water supplies.
Company and EPA officials have said oil is no longer leaking, but the spill's size was considerable. An 800,000 gallon spill would be enough to fill 1-gallon jugs lined side by side for nearly 70 miles. It also could fill a walled-in football field, including the end zones, with just under 2 feet of oil.
Enbridge-related companies have been cited several times in recent years for violations in the Great Lakes region.
Houston-based Enbridge Energy Co., spilled almost 19,000 gallons of crude oil onto Wisconsin's Nemadji River in 2003. Another 189,000 gallons of oil spilled at the company's terminal two miles from Lake Superior, though most was contained.
In 2007, two spills released about 200,000 gallons of crude in northern Wisconsin as Enbridge was expanding a 320-mile pipeline. The company also was accused of violating Wisconsin permits designed to protect water quality during work in and around wetlands, rivers and streams, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said. The violations came during construction of a 321-mile, $2 billion oil pipeline across that state. Enbridge agreed to pay $1.1 million in 2009.
The Michigan leak came from a 30-inch pipeline, which was built in 1969 and carries about 8 million gallons of oil daily from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario.
An 80-mile segment of the river that begins at Morrow Lake and five miles of a tributary, Portage Creek, have unsafe levels of PCBs and were placed on the federal Superfund list of high-priority hazardous waste sites in 1990. The Kalamazoo site also includes four landfills and several defunct paper mills.
Associated Press writers David Runk and Corey Williams in Detroit contributed to this report.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.
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