Oil that spilled from an Enbridge pipeline into a southern Michigan waterway is not expected to reach Lake Michigan, U.S. officials say.
About 3.7 million litres of oil leaked into the Kalamazoo River early this week from a pipeline running from Indiana to Sarnia, Ont.
"We don't anticipate that it's even going to approach Lake Michigan," said Ralph Dollhopf, the federal on-scene co-ordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"Nor do we anticipate that it's going to get beyond the containment we already have."
The EPA, which is co-ordinating the cleanup, said staff and resources are being dispatched to the area to help with containment and environmental testing.
There are conflicting reports about how far the oil has travelled, but Enbridge and EPA officials disputed the claim that oil was found on Morrow Lake, near Kalamazoo, the largest city in the region.
Enbridge vows to clean up oil
Patrick Daniel, CEO of Calgary-based Enbridge, said teams have set up barriers at numerous points along the river to try to block the flow of oil.
"We still have a huge job in front of us, there's no doubt about that," Daniel said Thursday.
But much of the oil on the river has been cleaned up, he said.
Notes from the field
"The water has a sheen across it," Dave Seglins of CBC News said from Battle Creek, Mich., which is near the spill site and about 50 kilometres from Kalamazoo. "I'm also seeing large chunks of crude floating by."
Much of the oil was being caught by absorbent booms that were set up across the river, Seglins said.
"I will say that farther up the river, it's much thicker," he said. "As we get down through boom system after boom system, it's like they are sifting out these chunks."
Enbridge has vowed that "anything and everything" affected by the oil will be cleaned, and Daniel said the company will spend "whatever it takes" to clean up the mess.Thomas Sands, the deputy state director for emergency management and homeland security in Michigan, said a "significant amount of oil" on the river still needs to be cleaned up.
Sands said state officials were working with Enbridge staff and their federal counterparts to move more resources into the area to try and contain the oil.
Oil contaminates river
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has called the cleanup effort "wholly inadequate" and warned of a tragedy if the oil reaches Lake Michigan. Local residents are also expressing concern.
"Our river is very important to us here," said Chris Simmons, vice-mayor of Battle Creek, which is near the spill site.
"The river has really bounced back from the last couple of decades from previous abuse and this is a setback for the environment and our community," Simmons said.
Debbie Grove, who lives across the road from where the pipeline broke in Marshall Township, said she noticed a strange smell on Sunday. Enbridge has said the spill was detected early Monday.
"We thought it was just the natural gas, but then we found out it was crude oil," Grove said. "It stinks."
Public health officials have urged several families who live near the spill site to leave the area because of high levels of benzene. About 100 families who have wells near the river have been advised to drink bottled water, public health officials said.
While crews work to contain the oil, others are trying to locate and treat animals affected by the spill. Seventeen Canada geese, two swans, a duck and a turtle are among the wildlife that have already been brought into an emergency rehab centre, an official with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday.
Granholm has declared a state of disaster for some areas along the river, and U.S. President Barack Obama has offered federal support.
The investigation into the spill continues, and the cause of the pipe break has not been determined, officials said.
In a Jan. 21 letter, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration told Terry McGill, Enbridge Energy Partners chair, that the company's corrosion monitoring of the pipline, called Line 6B, did not comply with federal regulations, The Associated Press reported.[GALLERY id=3727 cat=news]