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Clean up begins of fuel oil leak in Kalamazoo River

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
The Kalamazoo River downstream of Comstock Township, near Plainwell. Officials are unlear how much of the fuel oil escaped downstream but haven't seen any significant impact yet.

Efforts are under way to clean up a fuel oil spill in Kalamazoo County.

It's estimated as much as 115 gallons of the fuel oil leaked from an above-ground storage tank at Klooster's Greenhouse, in Comstock Township. Authorities believe the leak was the result of an attempt to steal fuel. They say fuel oil has seeped into the soil near the tank, and some of it made its way into a storm drain, which carried it into the Kalamazoo River.

The leak was discovered after the Kalamazoo County Office of Emergency Management responded to reports of an oil sheen in the Kalamazoo River on Monday night. 

Within an hour and a half of the report of the spill, the Comstock Fire Department and the Kalamazoo County HAZMAT team were able to install absorbent booms to contain the fuel oil, said Mark DuCharme of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

DuCharme said about 115 gallons of fuel oil are unaccounted for.  He said it's unclear  how much of that was stolen, and how much spilled into the ground, storm sewer, or river.

DuCharme said it is also unclear how much of the fuel oil that got into the river escaped downstream before it could be contained.  He said at this point they haven't seen any significant environmental impact and they will continue to evaluate the spill.

DuCharme said communities downstream have been notified, including the Allegan County of Emergency Management.

"We've heard nothing further downriver of any impact of fuel oil observed on the river," DuCharme said. "So we don't believe it to be a very extensive situation."

DuCharme said the owner of the greenhouse has hired a contractor to clean up the soil and the storm sewer, as well as the fuel oil trapped by the boom in the river. He said the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will oversee the cleanup process.

Virginia Gordan, Michigan Radio Newsroom