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Kalamazoo River Oil Spill and Benzene Toxicity

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The Kalamazoo River oil spill occurred in July 2010 when a pipeline operated by Enbridge (Line 6B) burst and flowed into Talmadge Creek, a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. The pipeline carries diluted bitumen (dilbit), a heavy crude oil from Canada’s Alberta Athabasca oil sands to the United States. After the pipeline break, the volatile hydrocarbon constituents evaporated, leaving the denser bitumen to sink into the river.

benzene leukemia cancer attorney35 miles of the Kalamazoo River were closed until June 2012, when portions of the river were re-opened. On March 14, 2013 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered Enbridge to return to dredge portions of the river to remove oil-contaminated sediment.

National Transportation Safety Board’s Report

The National Transportation Safety Board’s report in July 2012 blasted Enbridge. “This investigation identified a complete breakdown of safety at Enbridge. Their employees performed like Keystone Kops and failed to recognize their pipeline had ruptured and continued to pump crude into the environment. Despite multiple alarms and a loss of pressure in the pipeline, for more than 17 hours and through three shifts they failed to follow their own shutdown procedures.”

Alberta Tar Sands Crude Oil Spill

About 843,000 gallons of Alberta tar sands crude oil, spilled into wetlands near Talmadge Creek , from an 80-inch rupture in Enbridge’s Line 6B. The NTBS said that’s the equivalent of 120 tanker trucks full of oil. The report said the firm knew about cracks and corrosion in the line in 2005 but did not understand their interaction and did not repair the line.

The report blasted the “culture of deviance” that Enbridge operators displayed, pointing to “systemic flaws in operational decision-making.” The company’s operating culture was one “in which not adhering to approved procedures and protocols was normalized.”

Enbridge Worsened The Spill.

“Following the first alarm, Enbridge controllers restarted Line 6B twice, pumping an additional 683,000 gallons of crude oil, or 81 percent of the total amount spilled, through the ruptured pipeline” according to the NTSB report.

The Michigan Department of Community Health study identified more than 320 people who suffered symptoms consistent with benzene poisoning. Benzene is a toxic component of crude oil. According to experts, Benzene is known to cause cancer, based on evidence from studies in both people and laboratory animals. Benzene causes leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome.

Largest and Most Expensive in US History

With more than $800 million spent in cleanup costs, the spill is the most expensive on-land oil spill in U.S. history. According to the EPA, about 180,000 gallons of crude remain at the bottom of the river. The EPA has ordered Enbridge to remove 12,000-18,000 gallons of oil sediment by dredging and the cost of the cleanup will be $1 billion. The rest of the heavy crude is unrecoverable in the short term and will have to be monitored and collected over time.