Overall, the Kalamazoo River and its floodplain seem to have recovered remarkably well from the 2010 oil spill, says an environmental expert. However, many Kalamazoo residents seem to feel the opposite about the river recovery.
Steve Hamilton, professor of ecosystem ecology and biogeochemistry at Kellogg Biological Station, said the river is coming back from the spill, however, “much submerged oil evidently remains.”
But residents such as 35-year-old Chris Whamhoff, a citizen of Kalamazoo who grew up on the river, think that the river is still suffering the effects of the spill. “My entire life they were doing dredging-like processes, cleaning PCB’s out of the river,” said Whamhoff. “I grew up playing basketball at Deans Park in Plainwell and there used to be algae, fish and turtles. Even in the middle of the PCB clean-up, there were algae, fish and turtles. Now, even miles down, there is none of this.”
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the EPA decided to proceed with the dredging because it has been proven effective in the past of removing the oil sheen and the oil containing sediment from the Kalamazoo River, according to Hamilton.
In August, Enbridge Inc. asked the EPA for an extension on completing dredging process of the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill.
Enbridge Inc. has requested an extension of the Dec.31 deadline to remove the submerged oil and oil containing sediment along parts of the Kalamazoo River that the EPA ordered in March, according to the Kalamazoo Gazette.
The March order required dredging to take place along three specific areas along the Kalamazoo River. These areas include the upstream of the Ceresco Dam, the Mill Ponds area, Morrow Lake and its connecting parts.
“The total likely cost of the clean-up process will exceed $1 billion,” said Hamilton. “The government costs coming from the clean-up process will be reimbursed by Enbridge. However, Enbridge went over its insurance coverage, so you can expect some changes in their insurance policy.”
According to Enbridge, the company has removed 1.15 million gallons of oil from the Kalamazoo River. The EPA estimates there is still about 180,000 gallons of submerged oil lodged in the river sediment.
Another resident who has been conducting research on the toxic balls in the river, Craig Ritter, of Portage, said: “I am just now finding turtles and fresh water claim. The animals are coming back, but nothing like before.”
The 180,000 gallons of oil that will remain lodged in the Kalamazoo river sediment after the dredging is complete will not be able to be recovered right away without causing significant impacts to the river, according to the EPA.
“Much submerged oil evidently remains,” said Hamilton. “We will never get all of it out. It is impossible to even if we had the resources.”