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It appears that Enbridge will miss its EPA deadline to remove submerged oil from the Kalamazoo River


KALAMAZOO (WKZO) --It won't be for lack of trying. 

Kalamazoo County has given Enbridge the green light to turn River Oaks Park into a temporary site to transfer contaminated river sediments to trucks. Work could begin as soon as next week.

Enbridge is working against a December 31st deadline imposed by the EPA to remove submerged oil in various hot spots along the Kalamazoo River in the 25 mile long zone that was contaminated by the 2010 oil spill.

They may have even less time than that if the water begins to freeze over.

Enbridge has been able to find locations in Calhoun County near the other sites for dredge pads to process the sediments, but not in Comstock near the river delta at Morrow Pond. The search has stirred up considerable controversy and opposition, even the threat of a lawsuit by the owner of Bell’s Brewery.

Time is running out and they are going to a more expensive last ditch effort that will at least partially meet the EPA deadline.

They will pump oil contaminated sediments to River Oaks Park from vacuums on barges, into holding tanks where river water will be filtered out and put back into Morrow Pond. The sediments will be transferred to tanker trucks, and hauled to existing dredge pads in Calhoun County and dried out there, mixed with cement and then taken to landfills.

Spokesman Jason Manshum was unable to say which dredge pads will be receiving the trucks, or give us a price tag for this part of the clean-up. That may be because no one really knows yet.  He did say it will bring the total price tag for the entire clean-up of the Kalamazoo River to over a billion dollars.

The final deal between the County and Enbridge was still being finalized as the County Commission was receiving the presentation yesterday afternoon.

County Attorney Thom Canny says the final demand accepted by Enbridge is to put 300-thousand dollars into escrow to fund the restoration of the park, its roadways and parking lots, to county specifications using county contractors after Enbridge completes this phase of the clean-up. 

County Commissioners approved the 11th hour deal after assurances that Enbridge will be setting up safeguards to avoid spills at the park, and will be responsible to remediate any spills. There were also concerns about the additional truck traffic. 80 to 100 heavy trucks a day could be moving through the area for the next month or so. They will be directed to 35th Street and use I-94 for the majority of their trip, and make the return trip to the park using Sprinkle and M-96.

The EPA set the December 31st deadline because they fear that spring flooding could flush the submerged oil downstream into Morrow Pond and perhaps downriver further into Kalamazoo County. As the lake freezes over, dredging will have to stop.

The County Parks Department will receive 100-thousand dollars for rental of the park. Enbridge will at least partially meet their EPA mandate.

The site is remote enough from Comstock’s industrial park and residential neighborhoods to avoid conflicts and everyone gets a cleaner river.

County Board Chair David Maturen thinks it’s a win for everyone, given the unfortunate fact that the area is recovering from the worst pipeline spill in U.S. History.

The original plan was to dredge the mouth of the river and hot spots on the Delta itself, but because they are running out of time, they will only be able to do the mouth of the river.

Manshum says they are in talks with the EPA about cleaning up the rest of the delta, probably in 2014. It’s not clear if they will face additional fines for missing the deadline.

He says they have completed some of the clean-ups further up stream and are on track to meet the deadline at the others. But it looks like they may have to go into overtime at the river delta.