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Former oil spill clean-up employee settles lawsuit, says Enbridge is next

John Bolenbaugh on the banks of the Kalamazoo River. He claims Enbridge Energy is not doing enough to clean up the oil it spilled.
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John Bolenbaugh on the banks of the Kalamazoo River. He claims Enbridge Energy is not doing enough to clean up the oil it spilled.

In 2010, John Bolenbaugh worked for clean-up contractor SET Environmental Inc. The company was one of many to come in and start the clean-up process after an Enbridge Energy pipeline broke and spilled more than 840,000 gallons of thick, tar sands oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

Bolenbaugh was fired after several weeks on the job. He claimed he was wrongfully terminated after he complained the oil was not being cleaned up properly.

SET Environmental Inc. said Bolenbaugh broke company policy by speaking to the news media without approval.

This week, the Battle Creek Enquirer reports Bolenbaugh settled the case, which according to his attorneys, clears the way for a lawsuit against Enbridge Energy.

Testimony began last week in Bolenbaugh’s civil suit against SET Environmental but his attorney, Thomas Warnicke of Southfield and the attorney for SET, Van Essen, said they reached a settlement agreement Sunday.“It is the only legal way to go after Enbridge,” Bolenbaugh said about the settlement moments after Calhoun County Circuit Judge James Kingsley approved and sealed the confidential agreement.

The amount Bolenbaugh was awarded was not disclosed, but he stated he now has enough money to "fund what I am doing now."

What he is doing now is to continue his fight against Enbridge Energy.

From MLive:

"It gives him the resources and means to allow him to continue his efforts on behalf of the community," said Bolenbaugh's lawyer, Tom Warnicke of Fieger Law. Warnicke would not comment on any future lawsuit against Enbridge. "At this time, he is exploring any and all alternative legal claims he may have," he said of Bolenbaugh.

Since he was fired in October of 2010, Bolenbaugh has posted videos which he says prove the company is not cleaning up remaining oil.

A lawyer for representing SET Environmental Inc. quoted in the Battle Creek Enquirer said  testimony given last week, and testimony that would have been given had the case continued, "would have explained how oil was being removed and why Bolenbaugh is mistaken that the oil spill is being hidden from the government and the community."

Bolenbaugh came up in one of our  "Your Story" segments last year. Activist, social worker, and Kalamazoo College grad student Sasha Acker went down to the Kalamazoo River's edge with Bolenbaugh. You can read about her account here.

Mark Brush was the station's Digital Media Director. He succumbed to a year-long battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, in March 2018. He was 49 years old.
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