Next week marks the unfortunate six-month anniversary of Enbridge Inc.’s Battle Creek oil spill. The spill, which was reported by Enbridge on July 26, released an estimated 816,000 gallons of oil into Talmadge Creek.
On September 27, 2010, workers wrapped up the initial cleanup process. The Environmental Protection Agency’s December 17 oil spill response update states that 13,750,929 gallons of polluted water have been collected. The EPA is continuing to make sure that Enbridge’s samples of water, sediment, and air quality are meeting EPA guidelines and work plans. Oil spill cleanup is not a quick and easy task. Although the initial workforce of 2,000 has been reduced to around 500 since September 27, cleanup is scheduled to continue well into spring, with sites being monitored and re-evaluated.
On November 25 Enbridge reopened the 6B line that leaked after repairs. In the upcoming months, the oil company is planning on replacing sections of the line to prevent future leaks. The line will be shut down in February for five days and then again in March for five days. The sections being replaced will total 1.5 miles long all together.
Recent controversy has arisen as to whether the oil is truly being removed or not. On December 18, riverside residents gathered at the Battle Creek Urban League for a forum on whether Enbridge is responsibly cleaning up contaminated areas or not. A former Enbridge worker, John Bolenbaugh has been fired for calling the attention of the media to what he called the “lack of clean up and restoration in numerous places.” Certain clean-up areas are still being monitored, and hopefully the places where Bolenbaugh claims to find copious amounts of oil will be re-inspected.
At some sites, it seems that a choice must be made whether to remove every last drop of oil or to preserve the delicate environment of the river and its surrounding areas. Sometimes not all the oil can be safely or easily removed. EPA’s Mark Durno says that they are concerned with trying to preserve the islands on the river. If much of an already low island’s soil is removed to get rid of the absorbed oil, the island might disappear. Containment booms and absorbent booms have been placed around islands to collect remaining oil and prevent it from polluting the river. These islands are sites that will be revisited in later stages of the cleanup process.
Currently, with the river frozen and booms taken out for the winter, oil removal is being focused on the riverbank and wetland areas. The Battle Creek Enquirer reports that backhoes are being used to excavate chucks of frozen ground suffused with oil. After the oily soil has been removed, it is taken to an Enbridge site where it is cleaned. Contaminated marshy areas can be removed and cleaned more easily when frozen than when they are thawed and soggy. February 14 is the scheduled date for this winter excavation to stop. By then boats will be able to get back on the river and cleanup can continue out on the water. The Enquirer’s full story can be found here.