Dispatches from the Road: Kalamazoo River, Part 2 - Talmadge Creek Oil Spill

The Kalamazoo Crew has been sending us plenty of updates from the road.  They're currently in the midst of the third full day of the Institute, and they've covered a ton of ground. Michael Scott of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, who generously agreed to help out on this Institute, writes about the group's experiences on Friday:

Kzoo EPA 1

Journalists began their day learning details of the July 2010 oil spill and subsequent cleanup in Battle Creek, Mich. from what has been characterized as the nation's largest on-land oil spill. A  six-foot break in an Enbridge pipeline crossing Talmadge Creek resulted in a spill of nearly 1 million gallons of diluted bitumen oil. Crews collected 766,000 gallons of oil in first 5-6 weeks of the cleanup, said Ralph Dollhopf of the U.S. EPA, but the cleanup of oil embedded in sediment continues.

The company, which is moving oil from the Canada Tar Sands, has estimated its cleanup cost so far at nearly $1 billion. The EPA has spent another  $50 million so far -- money it will  attempt to recover from Enbridge, agency officials said.

Kzoo oil samples

Beth Wallace of The National Wildlife Federation, a native of nearby Battle Creek, Mich.,  said she first heard of the spill on NPR, but came back home to help with the response to wildlife needs.

She said the NWF remains involved because the spill was "precedent-setting" and because of the number of pipelines carrying diluted bitumen oil in the Great Lakes region.

Before boarding canoes and kayaks to head downstream on the Kalamazoo River, the IJNR fellows heard from  Jay Wesley of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

"Half the river was black," Wesley said of the day of the spill. he said workers rescued

Kzoo group

3000 oiled turtles , 176 water fowl  and a handful of mammals, such as muskrats -- but that no fish were killed.

"Fish can move away from the oil," he said.

The fellows also learned about ongoing health concerns from the Calhoun County Health Department, but also how recreational activities have returned to the Kalamazoo. After the canoe trip, fellows met with Enbridge and American Petroleum Institute officials.

Kzoo Enbridge spokesman

Kzoo Kayaks