Despite clean up effort, Enbridge making no friends in small Mich. town
Company denied a dredge pad permit as well as extension to clean up deadline
COMSTOCK TOWNSHIP, Mich.—Enbridge Inc., which was responsible for a massive oil spill three years ago in southwestern Michigan, was denied a dredge pad permit as it continues the cleanup effort.
The Comstock Township planning commission unanimously voted late Thursday to deny a special exception permit for the Morrow Lake dredge pad, which holds oil-contaminated sediment removed from the Kalamazoo River until it’s hauled away. Enbridge will have to find a new place to put the pad.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants Enbridge to do additional dredging of the river at the delta in Morrow Lake as part of the ongoing cleanup efforts from the 2010 oil spill near Marshall, and it has ordered the company to finish the dredging by Dec. 31, WOOD-TV reported.
More than 800,000 gallons spewed into the Kalamazoo River and a tributary creek after an underground pipeline ruptured, and oil flowed about 35 miles before it was contained.
Some raised pollution concerns during Thursday’s meeting, which the Kalamazoo Gazette said had nearly five hours of public comment and discussion.
One of them was Larry Bell, the owner of Bell’s Brewery, who filed a lawsuit against Enbridge over concerns airborne pollutants from the dredge pad could affect his nearby production facility.
Bell, who said he spent more than $50,000 fighting Enbridge, said during the meeting that it was the most emotionally stressful issue with which he had ever dealt.
Company spokesman Jason Manshum said that while Enbridge appreciated the time and effort the Comstock Township planning commission put into making its decision, there still is an EPA deadline to meet. Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge had requested an extension, but the EPA denied it, saying it was premature.
“Not getting site plan approval tonight … does make it more challenging to complete that initiative by the timeline in front of us,” Manshum said. “So now, we’ll go back and work with both federal and state regulators.”
Meanwhile, Enbridge is working on a new 210-mile pipeline that will run from Stockbridge, Mich., to Griffith, Ind., as part of an artery pumping oil between Canada and Midwest refineries.
Company officials have said it will feature thicker, higher-grade steel designed to prevent a repeat of the Michigan spill. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board determined the 2010 rupture was caused by cracks and corrosion, and the agency faulted Enbridge for failing to take steps that might have prevented it.
“Everything we do here in the state of Michigan is shadowed by what happened at Marshall, and it’s our goal to keep that from ever happening again,” Enbridge project director Thomas Hodge told the Lansing State Journal.
The $1.3 billion project, which began last month near Stockbridge, has been hampered by environmental protesters who have linked arms or climbed trees to temporarily block the work.