NTSB Blasts Enbridge Failures that Created Kalamazoo Tar Sands Spill

Panelists agree that Enbridge's spill response worsened the worst tar sands oil spill in history

07-10-2012 // Tony Iallonardo
Oil in Kalamazoo River

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) held a hearing on its draft report on the investigation of the massive Kalamazoo River tar sands spill. NTSB panelists were critical of multiple failures by Enbridge, Inc., from inferior pipeline design, to poor training and management, and an inept spill response that worsened the disaster. The spill, which sent more than one million gallons into the Kalamazoo River watershed in July 2010, was the largest tar sands oil spill in history.

Beth Wallace, NWF Great Lakes community outreach advisor said:

“NTSB’s findings are a wake-up call for Enbridge, and should put communities on alert that the pipelines in their back yards may not be safe. The company behind the biggest tar sands spill in history can no longer hide behind rhetoric and needs to make serious changes to its business practices to protect communities from the dangers of another massive spill.

“Enbridge operates a pipeline network, much of which suffers from the same design flaws and reckless management practices that led to the Kalamazoo spill. But it is far from the only company whose tar sands infrastructure endangers our public health and environment. There are too many pipelines that are essentially ticking time bombs in our communities and waterways. It is vital that Enbridge terminate its expansion plans and focus on the safety of its existing network.”

NWF says the following actions must occur to make the Kalamazoo River whole and to minimize the risks of future fatalities:

  • The pipeline that spilled, called Line 6B, should be removed from operation until all structural defects are repaired, and Enbridge should not be allowed to build a new and larger pipeline alongside Line 6B;
  • Enbridge should be required to run (through an independent 3rd party) an integrity inspection on all operating pipelines within the U.S.;
  • No tar sands pipelines should be approved for construction, nor should existing pipelines be re-purposed for tar sands shipments, until the National Academy of Sciences has concluded a study on how transportation of diluted bitumen impacts current pipelines.
  • Any pipeline operator transporting this product should be required to improve coordination with first responders and develop alternative response plans, which take into account the unique nature of the toxic heavy bitumen.
  • Pipeline operators should be required to disclose the materials in their systems, with tracking capabilities for diluted bitumen.
  • A thorough health study should be conducted on how a release of diluted bitumen impacts wildlife and human health, short and long term.
  • Integrity management programs need to be overhauled and there needs to be increased oversight on the part of PHMSA during pipeline inspections and when reviewing response plans

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