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Enbridge unveils new plans to dredge oily sediment from Kalamazoo River

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
The pink areas in the Morrow Lake delta are where dredging needs to be completed. The two proposed locations for dredge pads are also highlighted.

Enbridge Energy has new plans to finish dredging oil from the Kalamazoo River spill in 2010. The spill was the biggest inland oil spill in U.S. history. The cleanup has cost the company more than a billion dollarsso far.

The roughly 180,000 gallons of crude oil that was left on the river bottom before dredging began isn’t really oil anymore. It's tiny particles of weathered material that’s mixed in with sediment.

Federal regulators say dredging it all out would cause more harm than good, but a lot of it still needs to go in order to meet certain requirements of the Clean Water Act.

Enbridgealready missed the Dec. 31 deadlineto do that, in part because Comstock Township officials rejected its first plan, mainly over health and safety concerns. The Environmental Protection Agency denied the company's requestto extend the deadline.

Enbridge spokesman Jason Manshum says this time they’re better prepared.

“We’re hopeful that we can provide enough information, answer any questions for the commissioners that they will, again, make the right decision and approve one of these sites,” Manshum said.

Now Enbridge has two sites picked out. They’re both bigger so Manshum says it’ll take less time to dry out and haul away the sediment to a landfill in Three Rivers. Manshum says it will be less intrusive than the first location that got rejected.

Unlike the previous plan, the company does not plan to turn the sediment into cement. Manshum says that will reduce the amount of equipment needed on site. Enbridge will dredge about 35,000 cubic yards of sediment from Morrow Lake and the delta upstream.

The company plans to pursue site plan approval for each site separately, beginning next week.  

We’ve enhanced our experience in terms of dredging,” said Richard Adams, senior vice president of operations at Enbridge. “We know what it entails. We know the noise. We know the product that’s going to be pulled off the bottom of the river. All of that helps us to tell our story more clearly.”

Comstock Township’s planning commission will hold a public hearing on the first site at its meeting Monday night.

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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