Enbridge oil spill: Four years later

Updated: Sunday, July 27, 2014
Enbridge oil spill: Four years later story image

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – Saturday marked the four-year anniversary of the Enbridge Energy oil spill.

At the time it was the largest and most costly inland oil spill in American history. It happened literally in the backyards of hundreds of homes and spread 20 miles throughout the Kalamazoo River and its tributaries.

Some 800,000 gallons of crude oil seeped out of Enbridge pipeline 6B.

Newschannel 3's Julia Fello is live in Battle Creek with a look back -- and forward -- at this disaster.

Many of the affected families say this spill turned their lives upside down. There have been countless controversies involving the clean-up process.

Through it all, Enbridge spokespeople have told Newschannel 3 they're not leaving until it is all cleaned up.

We spoke to Jason Manshum, the spokesman for the oil giant. In the past, he's told Newschannel 3 they've spent close to a billion dollars cleaning up this horrible accident.

When the disaster was first noticed, in the summer of 2010, the full scope wasn't realized for weeks or, arguably, months.

Just 48 hours after the disaster then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm called Enbridge's response "anemic" -- after taking a helicopter tour.

A former Enbridge worker-turned activist, John Bollenbaugh, came forward to Newschannel 3 in the fall of 2011, sharing how the oil giant hadn't gone far enough to clean up the mess.

He showed Newschannel 3 evidence, he called it, that the company was covering up an area affected by the spill with canvas and grass seed.

Exposure like this has placed a spotlight put on this disaster. Most recently, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered more dredging sites for the oil company to clean up along the river.

The company also purchased rights to the century-old Ceresco Dam. When Enbridge announced their plan to take it down in pieces, worried residents told Newschannel 3 they were concerned it would spread oil contaminates downstream, despite the announcement from the Department of Natural Resources that this was something they'd wanted to do even before the oil pipe burst, to keep the river healthy.

Countless companies and frustrated homeowners have shared their woes with the cleanup, including Ceresco homeowner Dave Gallagher, who has been living near construction of a new and more efficient pipeline. Over more than six months, he's shared his headaches living too close for comfort, with noisy construction in his backyard.

He says, "Almost feel that we were steamrolled. What Enbridge did was try to sneak this pipeline in around our property and they had tons of problems. Had I not been here to oversee a lot of those problems, things would have went on  and, I think, could have put the public at risk as well as my home."

Manshum says, "If a recreational user sees an oil sheen or a globule of oil, it is deemed to be safe. You may want to go home and wash your hands or if you're in a public restroom, you can wash your hands there, but the river has been deemed safe for recreation use since it opened, which was in June of 2012.

These were just some of the headline-grabbing incidents that have taken place since this oil disaster.

The EPA ordered dredging sites should be finished by the end of this summer. The removal of the Ceresco Dam should all be complete by this fall.

Four years later, the after-effects from this disaster doesn't seem like they will go away any time soon.

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