In our backyard: Oil spill fouls the Kalamazoo River and threatens Lake Michigan

Friday, July 30, 2010

From an editorial by in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

In a heartbreakingly familiar scene, workers are slogging into swollen waters to rescue wildlife and skim oil after a massive spill.

Only this time it's happening in Michigan, and this time the oil threatens not the Gulf of Mexico, but Lake Michigan. The oil must not be allowed into the lake. Federal and state officials should do everything they can to see to that.

The oil - about 1 million gallons of it - leaked from a pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy Partners before the breach was discovered and the pipeline shut down on Monday, federal officials say.

The oil quickly ran into the fast-moving Kalamazoo River and by late Thursday was 35 miles downstream, though still 80 miles from Lake Michigan. The oil slick so far has killed fish, coated wildlife and forced several evacuations. Part of a shift at Kellogg Co., the Battle Creek, Mich., maker of Frosted Flakes and other popular cereals, was halted because of the strong petroleum odor on Tuesday.

In what may be a sign that certain lessons still haven't been learned, a frustrated Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm called the response from Enbridge and the federal Environmental Protection Agency "wholly inadequate." Both EPA and Enbridge promised to do whatever it takes to clean up the spill. . . .

Oil remains the nation's lifeblood. Pipelines occasionally have problems; this pipeline was built in 1969 and may have shown signs of wear, if early reports are to be believed.

But if we've learned anything from the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, it's that vigilance is virtue. Regulations must be tough and enforced. Companies must understand their responsibility. We urge officials to examine both the company's actions and inspection regimens.

But first, stop the spill and protect the lake.