Kalamazoo River (oil pipeline) - On July 25, 2010 in western Lower Michigan, a badly corroded Enbridge Energy pipeline was carrying crude oil from the Canadian tar sands. It ruptured, contaminating a marsh, Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. Officials calculated that 1.1 million gallons of heavy crude spilled into the watershed, requiring extensive clean-up, including a 25 mile stretch of the river.
Enbridge had been alerted to the problem by alarms at its Edmonton, Alberta control facilities but delayed notifying authorities in the U.S.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was ill prepared for a spill of this type of heavy, tar sands crude. By 2012, clean-up costs were thought to be about three-quarters of a billion dollars and still rising.
The U.S. Department of Transportation enumerated 22 probable violations on the part of Enbridge.
After the initial clean-up, EPA determined that hundreds of thousands of gallons of the heavy crude remained on the river bottom, and in early 2013 ordered that the clean-up resume.
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Black River (manure) - In August 2009, runoff from illegal manure spreading on a farm near Croswell, upstream from Port Huron, Michigan, killed virtually all of the aquatic life (including more than 200,000 fish) along many miles of the Lawson Drain, Seymore Creek, Black Creek and Black River.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) pursued legal action against the dairy farm which generated the manure and the manure management company that spread it on crop land.
The manure applicators had spread more than a million gallons of liquid and solid manure over wheat stubble on August 7th; nearly 300,000 gallons on August 8th; and about 250,000 gallons on August 11th -- all without incorporating the manure into the soil.
It rained about an inch on both August 8th and August 10th. On August 11th when state environmental investigators located the site, liquid manure could be seen running from the field surface and tiles.
Oxygen in the water was consumed by bacteria in the manure, leaving insufficient quantities for other life forms, killing most of them.
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Acme Creek/East Grand Traverse Bay (construction) - In September and October 2014, people in the Traverse City area reported that enormous volumes of silt were running off a 160 acre multi-use construction site into surrounding wetlands, Acme Creek and East Grand Traverse Bay in northwest Lower Michigan.
The construction contractor had a special use permit to clear vegetation and topsoil off the entire 160 acre site and did so all at once during the summer. Heavy rainfall followed in September and October. Plumes of silt flowed into the east bay. As the silt settled to the bottom, a multitude of tiny organisms, eggs, larvae and habitat were endangered.
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In the Kalamazoo River disaster, were government inspections of Enbridge’s old, corroded oil pipeline sufficient? No.
Concerning the calamity in the Black River, had MDEQ provided adequate education, training and oversight to the manure applicators? Obviously not.
At the Acme Creek construction site, did MDEQ’s
- failure to conduct timely inspections,
- reckless disregard of the topsoil stripping,
- lack of sufficient soil erosion control requirements, and
- ignoring insufficient maintenance of what little controls there were
border on malfeasance? Obviously so.
In each case, fines were levied. But fines can’t undo the damage.
The public deserves better.
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