Five years later: The Enbridge oil spill

In this July 30, 2010 file photo, crews clean up oil, from a ruptured pipeline, owned by Enbridge Inc, near booms and absorbent materials where Talmadge Creek meets the Kalamazoo River as in Marshall Township, Mich. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

MARSHALL, Mich. (WOOD) — The largest inland oil spill in our nation’s history started silently at 5:58 p.m. on a warm, West Michigan summer afternoon.

It would take hours for officials to realize what happened – and even longer before the magnitude of the disaster became clear.

Saturday, July 25, will mark the five-year anniversary of the Enbridge oil spill.

After Enbridge’s “Line 6B” ruptured near Marshall during a planned shutdown in 2010, crews in Enbridge’s control center in Edmonton, Canada, believed alarms were part of the shutdown, according to a 2012 NTSB report.

That failure to identify a leak led to crews increasing the amount of crude oil being pumped through the line – resulting in around one million gallons of oil escaping from a 6-and-a-half foot rupture in the line, spilling into Tallmadge Creek and later into the Kalamazoo River.

Just more than three hours after the rupture, those who lived in the area smelled something in the air. 911 calls started coming into Calhoun County Central Dispatch, but emergency crews sent to the area couldn’t identify the trouble that was lurking.

It wasn’t until the following day at 11:17 a.m. that a utility worker responding to reports of a gas odor noticed oil on the ground.

Crews raced to contain the spill, but it spread quickly. Oil flowed 38 miles down the Kalamazoo River before it was contained. On July 28, 2010, three days after the spill, the oil was finally stopped – 80 miles before it reached Lake Michigan.

Life along the river changed for years following the spill. Homes were evacuated. Some who lived along the river fell ill. Birds, fish and turtles covered in oil were pulled from the river by wildlife officials.

It took nearly two years to reopen the waterways to boaters and fisherman.

As the five-year anniversary approaches, 24 Hour News 8 is looking back at the spill, showing what we’ve learned from the disaster and examining another controversial Enbridge pipeline flowing through Michigan.

Monday, July 20 on 24 Hour News 8 at 6 p.m.: The River: Then. Now. Future.

  • 24 Hour News 8’s Casey Jones goes back to the site of the spill and the waterways impacted. We’re finding out how life along the river has recovered, and what work remains.

Tuesday, July 21 on 24 Hour News 8 at 6 p.m.: Learning from the spill

  • In the hours after the spill happened, first responders were unable to identify an odor in the air. If a spill happened again, are crews better trained to detect it? 24 Hour News 8 Joe Lafurgey finds out.

Wednesday, July 22 on 24 Hour News 8 at 6 p.m.: Next disaster?

  • Could an Enbridge pipeline that travels through the Straits of Mackinac be our next oil disaster? 24 Hour News 8’s Brian Sterling finds out what state officials are doing to make sure crude doesn’t spill into Lake Michigan.

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