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Daley calls for probe of Mich. oil spill

Friday, July 30, 2010

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley demanded a criminal investigation into an oil spill in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan after the leak spread to just 80 miles from Lake Michigan.

The governor of Michigan says it would be a "tragedy of historic proportions" if the oil is allowed to reach the lake.

The oil began leaking into the Kalamazoo River on Monday not far from Battle Creek, Michigan. It has moved 35 miles downstream and is getting close to Kalamazoo.

It is refined Canadian crude that is supposed to be headed back to Canada. But Monday Canadian energy company Enbridge's pipeline failed just east of Battle Creek, MI. And now the mayor is saying the threat of spilled oil far outweighs what Asian carp could do to Lake Michigan.

"Oil is worse than carp. Oil basically destroys your drinking water," said Daley.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the leak dumped more than 1 million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River and a creek that flows into it on Monday. The company's estimate is smaller - 819,000 gallons.

The leak happened where the pipe was corroded at Marshall Township and the oil is now just east of Morrow Lake, MI, a key tributary feeding into Lake Michigan.

The 30-inch pipeline was built in 1969 and carries about 8 million gallons of oil daily from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario. "We are very concerned about citizens being on this river, drinking the water. We are concerned about the habitat and the wildlife," said Governor Jennifer Granholm, Michigan.

Michigan officials had some 50 families evacuated from their homes near the spill -- and even Battle Creek's Kellogg cereal plant stopped production for a few hours Thursday. The EPA mounted a last stand to stop the oil at Morrow Lake and reported progress Thursday night.

"I did not observe any sheen of oil on Morrow Lake. The more sobering news is that we have a lot of work left yet to do," said Susan Hedman, EPA administrator.

Daley has been criticized for questioning Michigan's response to the spill in the context of Michigan's aggressive actions -- including a lawsuit -- to shut down locks and shipping in Illinois to prevent the Asian carp from getting into the lake.

At the Shedd Aquarium, stewards of this seascape say it's politics as to what's worse.

"We utilize the oil and there is impact on the damage there. With the carp, we did employ it for pest control. It's a natural fish but it just doesn't occur in this habitat so you could argue on both accounts that they don't belong in this habitat," said Dr. IIze Berzins Shedd Aquarium.

Enbridge apparently was warned by the EPA that the way it was monitoring corrosion in that pipeline was not up to changing EPA standards. They were warned in a letter that went to the head of the company back in January. This leak happened some six months later.

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lake michigan, local, ravi baichwal
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