Two years ago today, more than a million gallons of tar sands oil poured into the Kalamazoo River. The tar sands pipeline operated by Enbridge Inc. contaminated nearly 40 miles of the watershed, making it the largest & most expensive spill in the Midwest. 

It is still being cleaned up today. 

“My family was directly impacted by the spill. The toxic fumes gave us rashes, nausea and headaches. By taking a stand against tar sands we are fighting for people’s rights and health. Our River will never fully recover, but we can educate the country about the dangers of tar sands and the disastrous impact this type of spill can have so the same thing doesn’t happen to you.” -Susan Connolly, who lives by the river. 

Pipeline leak detection systems miss 19 out of 20 spills
An investigation of pipeline accident reports from the last ten years has revealed that the much touted leak detection systems employed by pipeline companies only catch one out of twenty spills. The InsideClimate New article by Lisa Song illustrates an alarming disconnect between industry rhetoric and reality when it comes to detecting leaks on pipelines. Not only do pipeline leak detection systems miss nineteen out of twenty spills, they miss four out of five spills larger than 42,000 gallons. Understanding the limits of current leak detection technology has never been more important.

As companies like Enbridge and TransCanada propose pipelines moving large volumes of tar sands across sparely populated areas, through rivers and aquifers, it’s critical that the public consider what’s at stake with open eyes. Particularly after learning from Enbridge’s Kalamazoo tar sands pipeline spill how much more damaging tar sands can be.  Read more.

Photo of Kalamazoo River cleanup, courtesy of Mic Stolz

Recently released Enbridge report shows areas of corrosion along Line 5
By Mark Brush

Recently released information about the condition of Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac shows some signs of corrosion. But company officials continue to say the twin pipelines running under Lake Michigan are safe.

As a reminder, this is the same company responsible for the Kalamazoo River oil spill. The Kalamazoo River oil spill occurred in July 2010 when a pipeline operated by Enbridge (Line 6B) burst and flowed into Talmadge Creek, a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. A six-foot break in the pipeline resulted in the largest inland oil spill, and one of the costliest spills in U.S. history. Now Line 5 is showing signs of corrosion, only this time putting the entire ecosystem of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron at risk … and we are suppose to believe everything is okay. No thanks Enbridge, it is time to shut it down.



5 Years Since Massive Tar Sands Oil Spill, Kalamazoo River Still Not Clean
Five years ago, an oil pipeline operated by Enbridge ruptured in Michigan, spilling more than a million gallons of tar sands into the Kalamazoo RIver. Oil spills of that magnitude are always disastrous, but the Kalamazoo event was historically damaging. Enbridge spent $1.21 billion to clean up the River, but the River is still not clean.


The first challenge was the composition of the oil. Fresh tar sands crude looks more like dirt than conventional crude—it’s far too thick to travel through a pipeline. To get this crumbly mess to flow, producers thin it out with the liquid constituents of natural gas. Diluted bitumen, or dilbit, as it’s called in the tar sands industry, is approximately three parts tar sands crude, one part natural gas liquids.

When dilbit gushed into Talmadge Creek [tributary of the Kalamazoo River] in 2010, the mixture broke apart. The volatile natural gas liquids vaporized and wafted into the surrounding neighborhoods. The airborne chemicals were so difficult to find and eliminate that Enbridge decided it would be better to simply buy some of the homes that were evacuated, preventing the residents from ever returning.

The tar sands oil, which stayed in the water, presented an even bigger chemistry problem. Most forms of oil, including conventional crude, are less dense than water. That’s why oil makes such pretty colors when dropped into a rain puddle—it floats and plays tricks with the sunlight. Traditional oil spill cleanup technology relies heavily on this density relationship. Skimmers and vacuums remove it from the surface. Floating booms prevent surface-level oil from moving into environmentally sensitive areas.

Tar sands crude behaves differently. “Tar sands bitumen is a low-grade, heavy substance,” says Anthony Swift, director of NRDC’s Canada Project (disclosure). “Unlike conventional crude, when bitumen is released into a water body, it sinks.” (See “Sink or Skim,” onEarth’s infographic on why tar sands oil is more difficult to clean up than conventional crude.)

Pipe Out Paddle Protest Scheduled for September 6 At Mackinac Bridge

Pipe Out Paddle Protest Scheduled for September 6 At Mackinac Bridge

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Enbridge Line 5 – the heavy crude pipe that runs through the Straits of Mackinac under the Mackinac Bridge is 62 years old. After the disaster that happened in the Kalamazoo River with Line 6B in 2010, the people of Michigan want Governor Snyder and Lansing to know that it’s time to remove the pipeline from under the Straits before it’s too late. Keeping the potential disaster fresh in people’s…

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State of Michigan Seeks Public Comment On Independent Analysis of Aging Mackinac Oil Pipeline

State of Michigan Seeks Public Comment On Independent Analysis of Aging Mackinac Oil Pipeline

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The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Michigan Agency for Energy invite public comments on two draft documents to hire contractors to perform inspection and analysis of Enbridge line 5, the 60 year old oil pipeline that runs under the Mackinac bridge through the Straits of Mackinac. Enbridge Line 5 carries over 20 million gallons of oil every day through the straits. After Enbridge…

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Protect Great Lakes Wildlife from Oil Spills

The same company that caused the Kalamazoo River oil disaster, Enbridge Energy Partners, wants to increase the flow of oil through an aging pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. Take action to protect Great Lakes wildlife from a disastrous oil spill.

Note: This action is only available to people with a U.S. Senator.

Enbridge Donates $20k To Repair Damaged Straits Memorial

Enbridge Donates $20k To Repair Damaged Straits Memorial

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The Pere Marquette National Memorial will be revitalized in part from a donation made by Enbridge Energy Partners. The money will be used by the Michigan Historical Society to rebuild part of the memorial destroyed by fire in 2000. The national memorial is dedicated to the memory of Father Jacques Marquette; he founded the first permanent European settlement in Michigan and explored west looking…

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