Officials Say Oil Cleanup Making "Significant Improvement" in Kalamazoo River

The oil spill that coated 35 miles of Michigan's Kalamazoo River is thought to be contained and crews are beginning clean-up that could take months.

08-01-2010 // Jordan Lubetkin
Oil in Kalamazoo River

Government officials on Sunday said they are making "remarkable progress" in cleaning up an oil spill that stained 35 miles of the Kalamazoo River, but added that it would take months to finish the job.

A 30-inch pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy sprung a leak on July 26, dumping nearly one million gallons of oil into Tallmadge Creek, a tributary of the Kalamazoo River.

Government and company officials said the oil spill is contained and should not reach Lake Michigan, about 80 miles downstream.

"There has been significant improvement at the spill site, in Tallmadge Creek and in the Kalamazoo River," said Susan Hedman, director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 5 office in Chicago.

Despite progress in cleaning up the river, removing all the oil from the river, riverbanks, wetlands and floodplains will take "months," said Mark Durno, deputy incident commander for the Calhoun County Department of Emergency Management.

Crews have removed 1.6 million gallons of oil and water from the river, Durno said. There is now 65,000 feet of oil absorbent boom in the river.

Durno said the oil is now largely contained; crews will now focus on removing oil from the river, the riverbank and vegetation along the river.

The federal government has secured $5 million for the cleanup and will likely seek more funding, Hedman said. She said Enbridge Energy would pay for the entire cleanup.

Enbridge Energy CEO Patrick Daniel said the company has 730 people working on the cleanup. He said Enbridge would restore the river to its pre-spill condition and pay all legitimate claims from residents and businesses affected by the spill.

Government officials praised residents for assisting efforts to rescue oil-soaked wildlife, but urged people to not attempt to clean oiled wildlife on their own. Anyone who sees oil-coated wildlife should call (800) 306-6837.

People who would like to volunteer to help clean wildlife should contact Hands On Battle Creek via www.handsonbc.com.

A community meeting to discuss the latest information on the oil spill will be held at 7 p.m. Monday night at Marshall High School

For more information on the oil spill and cleanup efforts, visit www.michigan.gov/oilspill.

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