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Tar Sands Oil Spill in Kalamazoo River in Michigan the Most Expensive Onshore Oil Spill in History

In the summer of 2010, most of the media and public’s attention focused on the BP oil spill in July 2010. I honestly, and embarrassingly, was completely unaware of another oil spill that occurred in a creek which leads into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. This leak is now considered to be the most expensive onshore oil spill in history.


Less than two weeks after BP finally managed to plug their leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico, it happened again – but this time in Michigan. A Canadian company’s 30-inch pipeline that ran beneath the surrounding wetlands carrying tar sands oil cracked and sent what would eventually be about 877,000 gallons of oil rushing into the Kalamazoo River. This disastrous leak from the Canadian company Enbridge sent local communities into a state of emergency.

Officials claim that this may be the worst oil spill ever in the midwest, and the single most expensive onshore spill in history because of one key difference – the source and type of oil. We are sadly used to cleaning up crude oil – the booms, skimming the oil from the surface, etc – but the spill in Michigan was tar sands oil which is enormously and disastrously different than crude oil. Primarily, tar sands oil sinks and the oil companies have no clue nor proper equipment to clean up this type of oil. About all that can be done is to literally shake the river bed, to agitate the river bed with big machines in order to try to make the oil temporarily rise to the top where they could get at it.

It has now taken two years for the oil company to clean up enough oil to reopen the Kalamazoo river to the public – and there is still oil submerged beneath the oil bed. Sadly, but somehow I am not surprised with this finding, but the NTSB, National Transportation Safety Board, has released findings of their investigation into what happened in that spill. They found that the oil company responsible for that pipeline knew about cracks in that particular stretch of pipeline a full five years before the pipe ruptured. A FULL FIVE YEARS! Furthermore, it took them a good 17 hours before they even realized that one of their own pipes had burst, and in that time, they pumped more than 600,000 gallons of oil through the ruptured pipeline and right into the river.

And we are considering running a pipeline through the midwest from the tar sands in Canada all the way top Texas so the oil companies may then refined and export for huge profits?

I hope this beast is never approved. Sure, it will create a few thousand jobs, most only for the duration of building the pipeline. But there are millions of jobs sitting on Boehner’s desk in the form of a jobs bill directly from Obama which will open up jobs all over the country to repair our crumbling roads, highways, and bridges. But Boehner does not have any stock in that plan – literally. It is known that Boehner, in addition to many other Republican politicians, and a few Democrats as well, have purchased stock in the key companies due to profit should the Keystone Pipeline XL be approved and finished. These people care naught about our environment in addition to opening up millions of jobs to our country.

Suffer the environment which will suffer the people.

The federal government is slapping a $3.7 million fine on Enbridge, a new record. Enbridge has 30 days to decide whether to accept or dispute the fine.

In this video, Rachel Maddow reports on the NTSB review of the 2010 Enbridge oil spill that dumped tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River, requiring two years of futile clean-up efforts and ultimately becoming the single most expensive onshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Report finds oil company failures enabled disastrous spill in Kalamazoo River Michigan

Related articles:

MSNBC: The Rachel Maddow Show
Inside Climate News: Record Fine Against Enbridge for Michigan Oil Pipeline Spill
Treehugger: Enbridge Slapped With Record $3.7 Million Fine for 2010 Tar Sands Spill in Michigan
Treehugger: Health Effects of Michigan Oil Spill Linger: Tar Sands and Lighter Oils “Double Whammy” Impact
Circle of Blue: Scene of Midwest’s Worst Oil Spill – Sleepless Nights and Black Goo
Treehugger: Faults Leading to 2010 Michigan Tar Sands Spill Known to Pipeline Operator For 5 Years
On Earth: A Year After Pipeline Spill, Tar Sands Oil Still Plagues a Michigan Community


  1. I’ve no doubt we didn’t hear about this spill because the oil companies didn’t want us to hear about it. Nor would the Republicans want us to hear about it since they’ve been so busy extolling the virtues and benefits of the proposed Keystone pipeline. We and the very ground under our feet are at the mercy of the 1% and whatever they think is best for themselves.

    Yes, indeed, our aging infrastructure needs urgent attention, starting with the power grid in the East that was knocked out for days by one freak storm. It’s more than a matter of health and convenience when power in the nation’s capital goes out; it’s a matter of national security. Our infrastructure needs repair and Americans need jobs. It’s obvious what needs to be done.

  2. as you may know, i am living just a cpl hrs south of fort mac, where the oil sands project is…so! glad whenever i see anyone writing about this “disaster waiting to happen” and it’s is an imperitive that people wake up to this “scourge for profit”..also, i’d like to apologize for my government here that seems to think that ALL oil sands ALL the time is the answer to all our problems…sooneer or later the people here will wake up anad realize that this project is a ool’s game and get rid of these neocon corporatists that rule here.

  3. p.s. as to sloppy’s post… i have spent a lot of time in the oil sands area and the safety regs are rarely of concern to the monied powers there…profits first…and couldn’t agree more, much much more needs to be done with regards tio the safety of the citizenry nearby, and the environment …locals refer to the area as “the moon” dure to it’s vast, stripped appearance…and if you see it on a cold winter’s night, you’d know exactly what being on the moon must feellike, as far as the eye can see, flat, barren, dead…

    • That will be our planet as a whole if we don’t stopped raping it. I cannot accept nor believe that renewable forms of energy are not cost efficient. They’re all lying to us so they can keep on profiting an obscene amount of money.

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