Three Years Later, Kalamazoo Tar Sands Cleanup Continues

After months of resisting, tar sands pipeline operator Enbridge has agreed to continue cleaning up the spill from its ruptured pipeline in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River.

So far, Enbridge has paid $820 million for cleanup; when this final phase is done the total could top $1 billion.

The July 2010 spill dumped over a million gallons into tributaries of the river, the biggest onshore oil spill in the US. 

Although TransCanada and Enbridge tout the safety of their pipelines, Enbridge has had more than 800 spills since 1999, and a whistleblower revealed that substandard practices are rife throughout TransCanada’s pipeline network, making ruptures inevitable.

Dredging the River

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Enbridge to dredge three areas where oil is still accumulating, almost three years later.

Kalamazoo cleanup 


"The dredging will prevent submerged oil from migrating to downstream areas where it will be more difficult or impossible to recover," says the EPA.

Enbridge also has to maintain sediment traps throughout the river to capture oil outside the dredged areas.

EPA’s surveys show that submerged oil can be detected throughout the 2 mile long, 700-acre Morrow lake, clearly growing from 325 acres in 2012 and 189 acres in 2011.

When the spill occurred, the heavy bitumen gradually sank to the bottom. Enbridge wanted to simply let the oil degrade "naturally."

In 2011, Exxon’s pipeline ruptured in the Yellowstone River, contaminating 70 miles with 63,000 gallons of tar sands oil. Luckily, that cleanup was easier because the oil was lighter and  didn’t sink to the bottom of the riverbed.

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