MARSHALL, Mich. (WOOD) - About 840,000 gallons of oil leaked into the Kalamazoo River from ruptured pipeline owned by Enbridge Oil one year ago - and they're still cleaning it up.
Reports indicate they've cleaned up the vast majority of the oil - about 766,000 gallons - and Enbridge has until August 31 to prove to the Environmental Protection Agency the cleanup is complete.
Five miles west of the spill there are signs of progress. The muck along the river bank is gone. There's no smell. Wildlife has come back.
Though the cleanup is supposed to be complete by the end of August, but Enbridge does not expect to leave the area.
"The oil, water and soil will be tested for many, many years. I don't know how long, but if there is a need to come
back to do more work, we are prepared to do that," said Enbridge spokesman Jason Manshom.
The company said they've also made progress settling damage claims. To maintain property values, it purchased 130 homes within 200 feet of contaminated banks. Of the nearly 2,400 claims made against the company, only 99 remain.
Forty miles of river remain closed, in part for safety reasons. Booms still line the river and crews are busy cleaning up the part of the spill you can't see. There is 220 acres of oil covering the bottom of the river, and the best way to collect that oil, they say, is to get it to the surface.
That effort takes extensive equipment, and health officals are gauging the effort to determine when it's safe to re-open the river.
"The entire river is not going to be reopened in one fell swoop," Calhoun County public health spokesman Paul Macosky told 24 Hour News 8. "It will be a process based on what's ready, what's safe.
However, Deb Miller is not so optimistic. Her carpet business is on a bank where much of the oil has accumulated. She can still smell it and thinks the company may need to take more aggressive measures beyond August 31.
"What I've come to realize with the deadlines is they are milestones," she said. "They're not deadlines. They are another marker in the sand. And then they'll go back, they'll do another reassessment and another planning period, and then we get a very short window for cleanup."
Regulators say Enbridge has met every deadline to date, but this kind of cleanup is new territory and they'll keep their eyes on it.
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