Feds Say Enbridge Oil Spill Was Preventable

By: Shannon Kantner Email
By: Shannon Kantner Email

Tuesday was the first time 19-year-old Ashley Esselink has been in the Kalamazoo River since the night of the oil spill in July 2010.

She's missed kayaking, but she's especially missed the wildlife.

"That was nice to see coming down this river, I was like 'Oh! There's geese!'" Esselink said.

Many signs of life on the river on the same day the NTSB reports the damage could have been avoided if Enbridge didn't neglect safety and emergency response procedures two years ago.

Enbridge says they were expecting this.

"We are not surprised by it," said Enbridge spokesperson Jason Manshum. "We have been working collaboratively with the NTSB for the past 23 months, and you know, we're looking at these recommendations as an opportunity to learn from this. We don't ever want this to happen again."

Manshum said Enbridge has already made changes to the operations and maintenance of their pipelines. Their main areas of focus for improvements are also leak detection, public awareness, emergency response time, and safety. Those are items mentioned in the NTSB report, too.

"This is our responsibility, and we have committed since the first day to get this river and this community back to its pre-existing condition," Manshum said.

Enbridge has built parks near the river, making access easier, but residents say it will never quite feel the same.

"All the trees they cut down, it's sad," said Deb Esselink, Ashley's mom. "I go running and ask if they'll replant them, but I don't think they are."

Enbridge has begun planting small trees in yards of homes within neighborhoods most affected by the oil spill. They also repaved some of the roads, both efforts to boost property values.

Esselink said there's been tension in the neighborhood ever since the spill, and Ashley isn't surprised.

"We like our roads, we love our trees, but at the same time we're just like, I mean in the grand scheme of things, it's stuff," Ashley Esselink said. "It's just stuff. Like 'We're sorry oil spilled in your river, let us give you stuff to make you not as mad.'"

Enbridge said the current clean up is a lot more passive than it was in the past. They're letting mother nature take her course in order to remove any leftover oil sediment.

The full NTSB report should be available in the next few weeks.

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