A Canadian company whose pipeline leaked hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into a Michigan river has experienced leaks, an explosion and dozens of regulatory violations in the past decade throughout the Great Lakes region and elsewhere in the U.S. Enbridge Inc. or its affiliates have been cited for 30 enforcement actions since 2002 by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration — the U.S. Department of Transportation's regulatory arm. They include a warning letter sent Jan. 21 in which the agency told the company it may have violated safety codes by improperly monitoring corrosion in the pipeline responsible for the massive spill Monday in Talmadge Creek, a waterway in Calhoun County's Marshall Township that flows into the Kalamazoo River.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimated the spill at more than 1 million gallons of oil, saying it had traveled 25 miles downstream. The state estimates it has traveled 35 miles. Gov. Jennifer Granholm warned of a "tragedy of historic proportions" should it travel an additional 80 miles and reach Lake Michigan and the vacation communities that depend on it. Steve Wuori, an Enbridge executive vice president, said the company was doing maintenance all along the pipeline, but the section at the leak site was not scheduled for replacement.
After being criticized for dragging their feet in their initial response to the Monday spill, company officials have pushed the message that they're doing all they can to clean and contain it. Enbridge CEO Patrick D. Daniel again apologized Thursday to the residents of Calhoun County "for the mess that we have made" to the river and nearby properties. "We take full responsibility and we will be here until you are happy in this community," Daniel said. "We still have a huge job in front of us, there's no doubt about that."