Up To 1 Million Gallons of Oil Leak Into Michigan River From Pipeline - Largest in Midwest History (UPDATED)

kalamazoo river map

Kalamazoo River map via Wikipedia.

Here we go again... Detroit News reports that Environmental Protection Agency officials have said that as much as one million gallons of oil has leaked from a pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy Partners into a creek flowing into the Kalamazoo River near Battle Creek, Michigan. This would make it the largest oil spill in the history of the Midwest. WATCH VIDEO - Planet 100: Top 5 Worst Oil Catastrophes

The oil spilled into Talmadge Creek, which flows northwest into the Kalamazoo River. The site is in Calhoun County's Marshall Township near Battle Creek and about 60 miles southeast of Grand Rapids. The pipe may have been leaking for many hours before it was originally reported to have burst Monday morning. Marshall Township fire officials responded to complaints of an oily smell from residents. More than 20 homes have been evacuated.

The spill is currently being investigated by the EPA and the National Transportation Safety Board.

UPDATES: Slightly lower amounts of oil, likely won't reach Lake Michigan; owners don't know what caused spill

Though initial reports placed the amount of oil spilled from the Enbridge pipeline as high as one million gallons, all subsequent reports have estimated the amount of oil leaked in the 800,000-840,000 gallon range.

If there's some good news in that beyond the decrease in size, it's that according to a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, quoted in the Lansing State Journal, the Kalamazoo River spill will likely not reach Lake Michigan. Mary Detloff said the spill can be corralled near Morrow Lake, just east of Kalamazoo, and vacuum trucks will be able to suck off the oil.

Fish Washing Up Dead, Geese Coated in Oil
Though experts say it's too early to assess the full environmental damage, dead fish are washing ashore, Canada geese have been spotted coated in oil, and the expected impact on invertebrates, amphibians and any mammals coming into contact with oil at water's edge is likely to be significant.

The owners of the 30"-wide pipeline, Houston-based Enbdrige Energy Partners, still do not know exactly what caused the leakage.

Pipeline Brings Oil From Western Canada, Through US, Back to Canada
The spill was first reported at 8:45 Monday morning at a Lakehead pipeline pumping station just outside of Marshall, Michigan, very roughly at the two-thirds point of the pipeline's 1,900-mile length through the United States

The Lakehead pipeline system is part of a 3,300-mile long pipeline system that enters the United States in North Dakota, crosses through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan, before cutting back into Canada, ending in Montreal. One of the largest pipeline systems in the world, it can deliver 2 million barrels of crude oil (84 million gallons) to refineries in the Midwest and eastern Canada.

12% of US Daily Crude Imports Done by Enbridge
Enbridge Energy is intimately connected with expanding production of oil from the Alberta tar sands and delivering it to the United States--their 2009 annual report states that they transport 71% of western Canadian crude exports, satisfying 12% of US daily crude oil imports.

And spills are par for the course.

The Sierra Club quotes Elizabeth Sherman, of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota:

The Enbridge pipeline runs through the Leech Lake Reservation, and there have been several spills outside our town that Enbridge hasn't been able to clean up. We're close the Itasca State Park, the headwaters of the Mississippi River, and the oil from these spills has gotten down into one of our two aquifers and contaminated the water in the top aquifer. The oil is still there, the water is still contaminated, and the damage is still being done. Tribal resident's wells are being contaminated, and now there's a restriction on how much fish we can eat per week because of mercury pollution.

According to stats gathered by Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resources, "between 1999 and 2008, across all of Endridge's operations there were 610 oil spills that released close to 132,000 barrels of hydrocarbons into the environment."

More on Enbridge: Out on the Tar Sands Mainline: Mapping Enbridge's Web of Pipelines [PDF]

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More on Oil Spills:
Planet 100: China Oil Spill (Video)
BP Gulf Oil Spill Officially the Worst in US History
Hundreds of Birds Killed in Oil Spill on Russia's Sakhalin Island

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