The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Kalamazoo River Kibbles 'N Bits as Oil Spill Anniversary Approaches?

By JoshMogerman in News on Jun 10, 2012 8:30PM

Cleanup operations continue as the two-year anniversary of the ugly Kalamazoo River oil spill approaches. At the time, it was clear that the million+ gallons of tar sands oil that slopped into the Michigan river was the worst oil spill in Midwestern history. Since then it has become the costliest and longest oil pipeline cleanup in US history too, with portions of the river remaining off limits today.

As the cleanup continues, the U.S. Department of Transportation is still completing its investigation as to the cause of the spill. The Agency is also conducting a separate study to determine whether the type of Canadian tar sands oil that would course through the line requires additional safety measures to move due to its elevated acidic nature. But the company responsible for the Michigan mess is not waiting around to hear the answers. Enbridge Energy has announced plans for an expansion to double the capacity of the ill-fated pipeline (the Lakehead system’s line 6B which begins in northwest Indiana, hugging Lake Michigan’s shores on its way northward).

While Enbridge will not put its pipeline plans on ice to wait for the study results, safety is certainly still on the company's radar. Enbridge ran preparedness drills in North Dakota this week, dumping dog food into the Souris River to simulate an oil spill. According to local TV coverage, it all went dandy and nobody seemed particularly concerned about the obvious differences between oil and Alpo…

A report out this week highlighting the extreme danger of inland oil spills underscores the threat to Lake Michigan (which the Kalamazoo River empties into) and Chicagoland. While disasters like the BP Gulf spill garner national headlines, pipeline disasters are far more common. Given this region's oil industry footprint, it should be no surprise that the area is criss-crossed with major pipelines. Will County, for example, is an underground maze of petroleum pipes, including one set ablaze when drag racers crashed into it earlier this year and another section of Enbridge’s Lakehead system which fouled Romeoville soon after the Michigan spill. Perhaps the silver lining is a potential boon for Illinois’ pet food producers if Enbridge and other pipeline companies get around to safety preparedness drills in our neck of the woods…