Nearly all of the Kalamazoo River is being reopened for recreational use and the cleanup of a massive Enbridge Inc. oil spill nearly two years ago is in its final stages, federal, state and local officials announced. Thirty-four miles of the river and all of Morrow Lake are reopening.
A more than 2-mile stretch of the river that was closed to the public reopened earlier this year. The announcement leaves only a quarter-mile stretch of the delta between the river and Morrow Lake still closed, and EPA officials said they expect that section to reopen in the next few weeks after some final cleanup work.
Reports say the river seems vibrant, alive with many fish, wildlife, and birds of prey. The next big announcement in the spill aftermath will come from another federal agency, the National Transportation Safety Board, which expects this summer to wrap up its investigation of what caused the leak.
It's still not known what caused the pipeline to rupture near Marshall in Calhoun County, about 60 miles east of Grand Rapids. The pipeline extends from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario, and is operated by Enbridge, which recently announced plans to enlarge the pipe so it can carry more oil. The Calgary, Alberta-based company has estimated cleanup costs at about $700 million.
Enbridge will continue to perform oil recovery operations, even after the reopenings occur, under the direction of the EPA and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, both of which point out that people may encounter ongoing work activities at some locations along the river.
The state Department of Community Health has said it anticipates no long-term hazards to humans from the spill, and tests have turned up no oil in drinking water wells near the river or elevated levels of oil-related air pollution.
Health agencies recommend washing skin and clothes with soap and water as soon as possible after coming in contact with oil, and stations with cleaning wipes have been set up near kiosks at launch stations to clean skin and boating equipment.