GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Jaymie Perry was paddleboarding on the lake at Bend Area Open Space Park Sunday afternoon when she came across an unusual sight.
“Started seeing these little quarter size globs in the water of something dark. Trying to figure out what that was. And there was an intense smell,” Perry said.
The smell wasn’t that unusual, Perry said. The area just off 12th Avenue in Georgetown Township is dotted with oil wells. But as she paddled ahead, it became more obvious that something was wrong.
“Just stared seeing more and more of these little splotches of oil, then paddled up to this massive slick,” she said.
She took photos of the mess and called the Ottawa County Parks Commission.
Drone 8 shows what you can’t see at ground level: Oil collecting along 300 to 400 yards of shoreline.
Crews with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy have been on site all week. They believe the oil, which has apparently stopped flowing, came from an old well covered up by floodwaters from the lake.
“Paddling out there a lot, I know there’s a lot of those old, abandon pump jacks out there. I guess that’s not a shock. I know where some of those pump jacks are. They were completely underwater,” Perry said.
Michigan has an estimated 447 so-called orphan wells. The U.S. Department of Interior awarded the state $25 million last year to begin plugging them.
The recreation area will be closed for at least a week or maybe longer as crews work to contain and mop up the spill.
“They are moving equipment right now,” David Wierzbicki, an incident management specialist with EGLE, said Thursday. “What we call an absorbent boom … basically a pool noodle that absorbs oil, trying to get it ringed around the area on shore where the oil is kind of washing up on shore and then shortly after that, start removing some of the debris that has oil on it.”
They’re working against both time and Mother Nature.
“The wind’s going to shift apparently later in the week, so we want to grab it while it’s pushed up on shore, before it can take off and go across the lake,” Wierzbicki said.
EGLE crews will also be looking at any effects on the environment in and around the lake.
Perry said she’s willing to help, too.
“It’s my little piece of happiness and stress relief, to be out there on my paddleboard to be in nature and enjoy it,” she said.