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Comstock Township denies Enbridge special zoning to dredge oil from Kalamazoo River

Enbridge workers are still present on the water three years after the spill.
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
Enbridge workers are still present on the water three years after the spill.

It now appears even less likely Enbridge Energy will meet a federal deadline to dredge oil from the bottom of the Kalamazoo River. The cleanup is related to the company’s 2010 pipeline spill.

Enbridge wanted special permission from Comstock Township to build a dredge pad, a place to process the waste and truck it to a nearby landfill.

After nearly five hours of discussion, planning commissioners ruled the site Enbridge chose to base the dredging operation wasn’t acceptable under the township’s zoning code. The site was next to homes and a commercial district that includes Bell’s Brewery. Commissioners listed several reasons, including potential human health hazards.

Federal regulators have ordered Enbridge to complete the dredging project by the end of the year. Enbridge already asked regulators for more time to do the work. They said no.

Enbridge spokesman Jason Manshum says the township’s rejection creates a serious challenge to meeting that timeline.

“We will however, work with regulators and the community on solutions that, to the best extent possible, will minimize impact to residents and businesses while at the same time being compliant with this order and trying to finish in a timely manner,” Manshum said following the meeting.

Manshum says they’ll talk with regulators before deciding their next steps. He did not take follow up questions from reporters.

Larry Bell says he would've had to shut down Bell’s Brewery if the dredge pad was allowed next to his manufacturing plant.

“It has been a strain. It’s been a strain for the employees as well, wondering whether or not; are their jobs secure. So a lot of relief right now and I think we’ll all sleep better tonight,” Bell said after the unanimous vote.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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