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Federal regulators won’t grant Enbridge more time to dredge oil from Kalamazoo River

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency will not extend the December 31 deadline it gave Enbridge Energy to finish dredging oil from portions of the Kalamazoo River.  In March the EPA ordered Enbridge to remove up to 18,000 gallonsof submerged oil by the end of the year.

The oil is left over from the2010 pipeline rupture. More than 800,000 gallons of crude oil leaked from the Enbridge pipeline. The spill affected almost 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River.

Enbridge says it cannot meet the deadline, but could complete the work by October of 2014. This month the company asked the EPAto extend that deadline.

Company spokesman Jason Manshum says all the locations in Calhoun County should be finishedby the end of the year.

“Unfortunately there are not many options in Kalamazoo County,” Manshum said.  That’s where a big dredging project in Morrow Lake needs to be done.

But in a letter to Enbridge,EPA officials said the company failed to prepare alternative plans.

“Although we recognize that the work required by the Order is unlikely to be completed by December 31, 2013, U.S. EPA believes that had Enbridge taken appropriate steps earlier as requested, it would not require an extension now. In particular, U.S. EPA believe that Enbridge has continuously failed to prepare adequate contingency plans for a project of this nature.”

Manshum claims Enbridge did prepare alternate options for the dredge work. But he says none of the options would’ve allowed the company enough time to complete the scope of work.

However, the EPA writes that the company’s contact logs “do not demonstrate that Enbridge fully explored and reviewed alternative options in a timely manner as to avoid delay.”

Regulators want the work done before this spring. The EPA says removing oil mixed with sediment would lessen the chances that the oil would move further downstream “via increased river velocities from rain and ice melt” as documented during the last three springs.

"U.S. EPA completely disagrees with Enbridge's assertion that there is no evidence of migrations of submerged oil during high flow event."

Regulators suggest using sheet piling to block off portions of Morrow Lake and Morrow Delta, draining the blocked off areas and dredging through the winter.

Manshum says the company ruled out that option because it’s much more complicated and would have a bigger negative impact on the environment, residents and business nearby. He also says that method is more dangerous for workers in the field.

The EPA declined to comment on what enforcement actions it could take against Enbridge for missing the deadline.

The EPA has ordered Enbridge to “prepare a comprehensive plan detailing methods and timing” of the remaining work required to complete its order “even if that work extends into a timeframe of delinquency.”

Manshum says officials are still weighing their options and couldn’t comment on how exactly the company will proceed at this time.

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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