Just under two years ago, on July 25 at 6 p.m., a pipeline carrying tar-sands oil split open in southern Michigan. Over the course of the next 17 hours, diluted bitumen -- a particularly dense form of petroleum -- spilled into the Kalamazoo River and a tributary. Estimates of the amount that spilled started at 819,000 gallons and went up, eventually topping 1,000,000. The spill made nearby residents sick: headaches, nausea, breathing difficulties. Many birds fared far worse.
It was the worst onshore spill in American history. And the entire thing was completely preventable.
Today, the National Transportation Safety Board released the results of its investigation into the spill. The San Francisco Chronicle summarizes:
Enbridge Inc. knew in 2005 that its pipeline near Marshall, a city 95 miles west of Detroit, was cracked and corroded, but it didn't perform excavations that ultimately might have prevented the rupture, NTSB investigators told the five-member board at a meeting in Washington.
Investigators also faulted Enbridge control center personnel for twice pumping more oil into the line after the spill began and failing to discover what had happened for more than 17 hours, when an employee of a natural gas company notified them.