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Michigan Oil Spill Raises Serious Questions

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Michigan oil spill

Poor government oversight of an oil pipeline company contributed to a major environmental disaster in Michigan this week.

As workers tackle a 1 million gallon oil spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, citizens are eager to volunteer to help with oil-soaked wildlife.  But public officials are discouraging them.  According to one report, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and wildlife officials are saying asking volunteers not to to rescue oil-covered wildlife from the river and surrounding areas. “While the sentiment is appreciated, the unauthorized efforts have potential to harm human health, environment & affected wildlife,” Granholm wrote on Facebook Thursday. “Incorrect disposal of wastewater created when cleaning oil-covered wildlife contaminates … groundwater, surface water & drinking water.What citizens can do is not so clear from the official pronouncements.

On Thursday, several dozen households were asked to evacuate and twice as many were advised not to drink their water because of the spill.

The leak is the result of a ruptured pipeline that leads from the Chicago suburbs of Indiana to Sarnia, Ontario.  The company responsible for the leak was aware of pipeline corrosion but government agencies had not ordered it to take action.  The company has a history of safety problems. And critics argue the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has failed to do its job of preventing spills.

The spill is believed to be one of the worst in the Great Lakes Basin and Michigan history. A Sierra Club page providing updates on the spill response is here.

Photo:  Jim West/

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