BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) - A man who claims he was wrongfully fired from his job cleaning up a 2010 pipeline rupture that spilled more than 800,000 gallons of oil into a West Michigan river has accepted a settlement in the case.
John Bolenbaugh of Battle Creek claims he was fired as a temporary cleanup worker for SET Environmental Inc. because he reported to the Environmental Protection Agency that oil was being buried -- and took videos and pictures that he claims proved it.
Bolenbaugh told 24 Hour News 8 he believes Enbridge told SET to fire him after his story got out. Both SET and Enbridge deny that claim.
"I proved this and they settled," said Bolenbaugh. "[SET] can say whatever they want about the settlement, but they are guilty, and in my opinion this was a huge win for us and I'm going after Enbridge now."
Attorney Doug Van Essen, the lawyer for SET, told 24 Hour News 8 his client doesn't admit any wrongdoing in the settlement. He said his client fired Bolenbaugh because he was "grossly insubordinate."
"He was fired for his insubordination, and that was the only reason," said Van Essen. "I think he knows that. He was trying to use the lawsuit for a platform for what he perceives as his cause."
Van Essen said the insubordination stemmed from Bolenbaugh violating a company policy against speaking to the media.
And as far as the settlement, Van Essen told 24 Hour News 8 it was a business decision, plain and simple.
"Simply decided the economics," said Van Essen. "It made more sense to settle."
Van Essen also pointed out that the case is an employment case -- it's not about the river cleanup or issues surrounding it. He said his client is still cleaning up oil and now is just happy to have this case over and done.
"It's kind of a relief to get back to the business that we know and enjoy and not have to worry about Mr. Bolenbaugh and his claims or court proceedings," said Van Essen.
Bolenbaugh said the amount of the settlement is confidential but did tell 24 Hour News 8 it is enough to "buy a couple houses."
He then said it's not about the money to him -- it's about the issues of his friends and neighbors getting sick.
But when 24 Hour News 8 asked him if he planned to share his settlement to pay medical bills and other expenses of the friends and neighbors he regularly references, this is what he said:
"I'm making T-shirts. I'm making banners and posters to expose what's going on around here," said Bolenbaugh. "So I'm trying to do the best I can with what I have. A lot of this is going to go to gas money and travel expenses to tell everybody how bad this tar san oil is."
The spill into the Kalamazoo River and Talmadge Creek near Marshall came from Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge Inc.'s pipeline. Cleanup continues.
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