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This is bad. Really, really bad:

A Michigan State Police emergency management official said this evening that the viscous flow of oil has breached the Morrow Dam and is bearing down on a federally designated pollution zone on the Kalamazoo River, potentially adding to the cost of the disaster's cleanup.

Tom Sands, the deputy state director of emergency management and homeland security for the Michigan State Police, said he saw a light sheen of oil past the Morrow Dam near Galesburg during a flyover this afternoon.

That would mean that the oil is closer to a Superfund site, an Environmental Protection Agency designation for heavily polluted areas. And Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who spoke to reporters tonight along with Sands, said the presence of oil at a Superfund site "completely explodes the amount of money needed to address" the spill.

Note: For reference, here's yesterday's diary on the situation

So, as Blogging for Michigan put it, "Guess we're gonna find out what happens when benzene hits PCBs."

The good news is that Gov. Granholm and the DNRE are all over this, doing everything possible to ensure that this doesn't turn into "Deepwater Horizon Jr.":

Granholm said Enbridge’s “wholly inadequate” response to the spill had prompted authorities to call in the U.S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard has assessed the spill by air and will send a team to work with the EPA to assist in the cleanup, Sands said.

The bad news?

Linda Schweitzer, an assistant professor of environmental chemistry at Oakland University, said the oil could affect the buoyancy of the PCBs. Typically PCBs will sink to the bottom of a river or stream. The oil could affect their buoyancy, Schweitzer said, allowing them to float up and be dispersed again.

Now, I realize it's usually considered inappropriate to call out other Kossacks in a diary, but in yesterday's comment thread there were a few people who made comments like this:

As noted in all the news reports I've read, there is dam at Lake Morrow that will likely prevent the spill from making it to Lake Michigan...

A tragedy for the river and everything upstream of the dam, but I think it's an important part of the story to mention...

Michigan DNR says Lake Michigan safe...There is a dam in the way...

I think Mr Hoepner looked at his maps and missed the dam... which I responded:

"Probably"; "Likely"...

"We think that's where we can head off this spill," Dettloff said. "There's probably no way this will reach Lake Michigan."

And your own posts included several "probably" and "likely" caveats.

I remember a LOT of statements along these lines...a few months back.

I was hoping that I'd be wrong about this response. Unfortunately it looks like I was right :( (see Update #5 below)

Oh, yeah, two other fun facts:

First, the initial report of it being 840,000 gallons has already been bumped up to over a million:

Enbridge Energy Partners, the company taking responsibility for the spill, initially estimated that 840,000 gallons of crude oil were spilled into the Talmadge Creek near the city of Marshall. But Congressman Mark Schauer (D-Battle Creek) said in a conference call today that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now estimates one million gallons were spilled.

(note that the quote above comes from the same article that also claimed that it was "unlikely" to make it past the Morrow Dam.)

Second, it turns out that the Alberta-based Enbridge Inc (that's right, another foreign-owned oil company!)--the company responsible for the pipeline and the spill--has "a history of safety issues":

In January of this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration cited Enbridge for not properly monitoring corrosion on its Line 6B near Griffith, Indiana. [the same line that ruptured in Michigan this week]...

PHMSA has documented at least three Enbridge spills since 2002, the oldest data available. Those spills accounted for an estimated 387,030 gallons of spilled crude. That's less than half of the oil spilled in this week's incident...

The most serious Enbridge accident was in 2007, when an explosion on an Enbridge pipeline near Clearbook, Minnesota, caused two deaths and $2 million in damage, according to regulators. PHMSA said the company exceeded the maximum pressure. The agency fined Enbridge $2.4 million and ordered it to make several procedural changes.

Meanwhile, here's photos, a map of the oil spread, links to various articles on the disaster...any of this seem familiar??


Update: As horrible as this is, it naturally has serious political implications that can't possibly be ignored. As DingellDem put it yesterday, "Michigan's 7th is a highly competitive district.  [Democratic freshman Mark] Schauer is in the fight of his life this year against former Representative Tim Walberg.  It appears that the oil companies have just delivered Schauer a major campaign issue."

There's at least one other Michigan district in which this could have a serious impact as well, however: In neighboring MI-08, which covers Clinton, Ingham, and Livingston counties (including Lansing/East Lansing), incumbent Republican Mike Rogers--who would normally be considered quite safe--might want to start scrambling for cover.

You see, in addition to all the other douchey things he's done (including blaming Pres. Obama for Gen. McChrystal's insults in Rolling Stone and telling 9/11 First Responders to go f*ck themselves, five years ago, Rogers attempted to allow drilling in the Great Lakes.

Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Menominee) offered an amendment that would have permanently banned oil and gas drilling in and under the Great Lakes...

Unfortunately, Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Brighton) undermined that amendment in favor of a watered-down version that rendered the Stupak amendment meaningless.

“We need a hard and fast rule that says at no place or time should the drilling for oil and gas in and under the Great Lakes be allowed,” Stupak said. “However, just like the Republicans did with the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Mike Rogers has opened the door for drilling and the destruction of the Great Lakes.”

In a procedural maneuver, Rogers amended the Stupak amendment thereby removing the meat of Stupak’s amendment.

This, however, is where things get a bit tricky.

Due to circumstances that I've explained in numerous previous diaries, the only name that's going to appear on the Democratic Primary ballot for Michigan's 8th Congressional District a week from today is that of a candidate who publicly dropped out of the race and then left the state...*after* the filing deadline, thus leaving the 8th District Dems in a bind.

Fortunately, a a pro-choice, progressive Democrat from Lansing named Lance Enderle has jumped in to try and salvage the situation by launching a write-in campaign for the Democratic primary.

If he's successful, we'll at least have a shot (an admittedly long shot, but a shot) in the fall. If not, Mike "Let's Drill for Oil in the Great Lakes!" Rogers will have a completely free ride in November.

Lance Enderle for Congress

Lance's ActBlue Page

Lance's Facebook Page

Full disclosure: While I'm working at a steep discount, I am still being paid as the Enderle campaign's web developer. Mostly, however, I'm just upset at the mess caused by Kande Ngalamulume's withdrawl and am trying to help salvage the situation.

Some have noted that political opportunism is inappropriate in the midst of a disaster like this. Unfortunately, given the circumstances in MI-08, as well as the fact that the primary is only 5 days away, I can't wait.

Let me repeat this: If Lance Enderle does NOT win the primary on August 3rd, there will be NO DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE AT ALL.

Update x2: Democratic Rep. Mark Schauer (MI-07) says the EPA has taken over the cleanup operations, and questions the company's initial response to reports of the spill:

Update x3: As an aside, on a related note, there was another important development connected to Michigan, the oil industry, and renewable energy that occurred this week: GM finally officially launched pricing of, and started taking pre-orders on, the CHEVY VOLT.

The importance of the Volt to GM specifically, Michigan's economy in general and the renewable energy cause at large cannot be overstated or exaggerated. If the Volt fails, you might as well stick a fork in GM 'cus it's done. If it succeeds, it (along with other plug-in electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and others on the way from Ford, Chrysler et al) may herald the end, at last, of our dependence on oil at all* (foreign or domestic).

The bottom line: The Internal Combustion Engine did it's job, did it well and served us faithfully for a century. However, it's become extremely clear that, like a party guest who stays too late, it has now worn out its welcome. It's time to move on.

*(yes, I know we use oil for plastic, lubricants and a host of other stuff, but you get my point).

Update x4: Goddammit, I hate it when I'm right. There was some question as to whether or not the Morrow Dam had been breached or not.

Well, it sounds like this has now been confirmed: ...or maybe not; see Update #5 below...

Oil from this week’s Michigan pipeline spill has breached the dam at Morrow Lake in Comstock Township and is at least halfway to Lake Michigan.

Crews continued today to try to stop the oil from spreading, but they had hoped to make a last stand at Morrow Lake.

Meanwhile, the Battle Creek Enquirer reported on its Web site that health officials are suggesting evacuations for 20 to 25 homes near the original oil spill site.

Comstock Township Supervisor said the discovery of the dam breach was made Wednesday during a helicopter fly-over of the area.

A news conference has been scheduled for 3 p.m. today in Battle Creek, presumably to release more details about the spill and cleanup and response.
The Battle Creek Enquirer also reported that the odor from the spill caused Kellogg Co. to stop production in Battle Creek.

Nice going, assholes--you just killed Tony the Tiger.

Update x5: Hmmmm....ok, this is getting confusing. Apparently the EPA is now claiming that the Morrow Dam wasn't breached after all:

Thanks to miracleminded for the update, and it looks like I may owe Via Chicago an apology after all.

If the dam truly hasn't been breached, this is very good news--at least, to the extent that a horrible oil spill of this magnitude can have *any "good" news...

Originally posted to Brainwrap on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 06:32 AM PDT.


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