August 3, 2013

Tar Sands Dilbit Disaster continues on Kalamazoo River

It was near Marshall that an aging oil pipeline burst on July 25, 2010 and spilled more than one million gallons of heavy Canadian crude oil into the Kalamazoo River. It was the largest inland oil pipeline spill in U.S. history, and its effects can still be seen today in the river and in the lives of the people who live near it. 

While cleanup continues three years after the Michigan oil spill, the U.S. EPA is still concerned that 180,000 gallons of submerged oil, some of which is moving towards a Superfund site, is a threat to the river and to people living nearby.

The Kalamazoo accident was the first major pipeline spill involving diluted bitumen, or dilbit, the same type of oil that will be carried by the Keystone XL pipeline if the Obama administration approves the project.

Bitumen is a tar-like substance that must be diluted with liquid chemicals before it can flow through pipelines. When the Michigan pipeline split open, the chemicals slowly evaporated and the bitumen began sinking to the river bottom.

The spill turned the river and little Talmadge Creek black with oil. The air was so rank with toxic stink that emergency hotlines were flooded with calls from people sickened by the fumes. 

It was a chaotic scene of evacuations, armies of cleanup crews, stunned officials and anxious neighbors. It took the pipeline's owner, Enbridge, Inc., 17 hours to shut it down. The oil flowed past a historic dam near Miller's home and nearly 40 miles downriver.

[Inside Climate News]

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