The attention of North America and possibly the world is on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but southwest Michigan is dealing with its own oil spill. Although at an estimated one million gallons, it is relatively small in comparison, it has been receiving much attention locally and was deemed newsy enough to garner some national coverage over the weekend.
Michigan’s oil spill is on the Kalamazoo River (albeit not the part that goes through Kalamazoo). Although the water will disperse it just like on the gulf, there are some key differences.
One is that on a river, the oil is relatively contained. There is no question as to where it will go; it will go downstream, whereas the oil in the gulf is at the mercy of changing weather, water patterns, and numerous other variables that make its path hard to predict. Another difference is that recovery and repair crews can reach our spill much quicker and address it more effectively. A third issue is that the source of the leak is a pipeline on the surface, as opposed to being thousands of feet under water in a challenging work environment — and not insignificantly, our leak was quickly stopped.
Oh, one more key difference is that the company responsible seems to be responding properly and admirably, possibly having learned a lesson from BP’s slow and oft-criticized response.
Workers have been mobilized and are out skimming the oil off the river and groups are rescuing oil-covered wildlife (which so far as been minimal). While some people have had to temporarily leave their homes (toxic fumes) and others are advised to drink bottled water, the impact is not looking too severe. Even though a million gallons of oil seems like a formidable amount, there is confidence that this spill can be quickly dealt with and contained before it causes greater havoc or reaches Lake Michigan (some 70 miles away).