EPA Response to Enbridge Spill in Michigan
Questions and Answers
Updated: July 18, 2011
(Archived Questions and Answers from 2010)
- What do I do if I smell petroleum product odors?
- What if I have health concerns related to the oil spill?
- Have any municipal water systems been affected by the spill?
- Will my private well be impacted by the oil spill?
- My water tastes or smells different. What should I do?
- Can I swim or boat in the Kalamazoo River?
- Can we eat fish caught from the Kalamazoo River and Morrow Lake?
- What should you do if you get oil on your skin or clothing?
Wildlife and Livestock
- How does this affect livestock?
- What should I do if I see wildlife that has been exposed to the oil?
- What areas are affected by the oil spill?
- Who has responded to the emergency?
- How is the spill being contained?
- What measures are being taken for the health and safety of those responding to the spill?
- Will the spill affect the Kalamazoo River Superfund Site?
What do I do if I smell petroleum product odors?
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) found in the crude oil are causing the odors. You can smell most pollutants related to the oil spill well below levels that would cause health problems. During the clean-up process, more odors may be released into the air as the oil is stirred up. The odors will be strongest near locations where crude oil is present. A comprehensive air monitoring and sampling program has been put in place. If you smell odors, contact the Enbridge public information line, (800) 306-6837.
What if I have health concerns related to the oil spill?
If you live in an area affected by the oil spill and have questions about the potential impact on your health, call your doctor or contact the Calhoun County Public Health Department, (269) 969-6341, or the Kalamazoo County Health Department at (269) 373-5210. If you are experiencing serious health problems, seek immediate medical care or call 911.
Have any municipal water systems been affected by the spill?
Marshall and Battle Creek municipal water systems have not been affected by the oil spill. To date, there have been no indications that the spill has contaminated any municipal water supply system. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, EPA sets legal limits on the levels of certain contaminants in drinking water to protect human health. Water systems have routine water testing schedules and methods that they must follow to detect contaminated water. These rules also list acceptable techniques for treating contaminated water.
Will my private well be impacted by the oil spill?
Calhoun County Public Health Department and Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services officials have been evaluating the potential impact the spill has had on private water wells. The health departments continue to conduct a systematic evaluation of private drinking wells located within 200 feet of either side of the Kalamazoo River and Talmadge Creek. At this point, no well contamination has been detected. The health departments will continue to evaluate residents’ well water in the affected area. If you have concerns about your private well, contact the Calhoun County Public Health Department, (269) 969-6341, or Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services at (269) 373-5210.
Wells outside the 200-foot area on either side of these waters are not likely to be affected by the spill since ground water typically flows toward rivers. Irrigation activities are not expected to affect the direction of the groundwater flow, nor well quality outside the 200-foot areas.
My water tastes or smells different. What should I do?
If you have concerns about your water, contact the Calhoun County Public Health Department, (269) 969-6341, or Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services at (269) 373-5210.
Can I swim or boat in the Kalamazoo River?
Calhoun County Public Health Department and Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services have issued a ban on surface water activities on the Kalamazoo River as part of the county’s state of emergency, including swimming, wading, fishing, boating, canoeing and kayaking. Local health officials warn citizens to avoid all contact with water from the Kalamazoo River until further notice. The Michigan Department of Community Health is presently evaluating site analytical data to determine when it will be safe to reopen the river.
Additionally, Michigan Department of Community Health advises that no one should swim, boat or touch the water of the Kalamazoo River from the west side of Morrow Lake upstream to the spill site.
Can we eat fish caught from the Kalamazoo River and Morrow Lake?
The Michigan Department of Community Health has issued an advisory for the waters downstream (west) of I-69 on the Kalamazoo River to the west end of Morrow Lake. No one should eat fish of any kind from this stretch of the river. All post-oil spill fish advisories continue for other parts of the Kalamazoo River. See the Michigan Department of Community Health website for more information or call (800) 648-6942.
What should you do if you get oil on your skin or clothing?
- Wash affected skin with soap and water. Avoid using harsh detergents, solvents, or other chemicals to wash oil from skin as they may promote absorption of the oil through the skin.
- If you get oil on your clothing, wash in the usual way but separated from other clothing.
Wildlife and Livestock FAQs
How does this affect livestock?
The Michigan Department of Agriculture has issued a ban on using the Kalamazoo River for drinking water for any animal or for irrigation (including watering lawns and golf courses). The ban was revised Aug. 7 to include only the Kalamazoo River above Morrow Dam and upstream to the point of the spill or any connected waters. More information is available from the Michigan Department of Agriculture. REVISED Producer Advisory for Kalamazoo River (PDF) (1pg, 24K) - August 7, 2010
What should I do if I see wildlife that has been exposed to the oil?
A wildlife rehabilitation center is open and receiving wildlife. If you see affected wildlife, please call (800) 306-6837. More information about spills and helping wildlife is available on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website.
What areas are affected by the spill?
The Enbridge Oil Spill and Response affects communities along Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River in Calhoun County and Kalamazoo County, Michigan. EPA and unified federal, state and local agencies want people to be aware of possible threats to human health and the environment associated with crude oil contamination, and physical hazards due to clean up operations such as increased boat traffic and deployed booms buoys, and silt curtains.
Who has responded to the emergency?
The initial response involved many federal, state, and local authorities and EPA-approved contract workers. As Federal On-Scene Coordinator, EPA is leading the unified federal, state and local response to the incident. Initial Emergency responders worked around the clock throughout the affected area. The initial unified response team included :
Six primary agencies have responded to the emergency:
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (MDNRE)
- Michigan State Police Emergency Management Division
- Calhoun County Public Health Department
- Calhoun County Sheriff
- Kalamazoo County Sheriff
Supporting and assisting agencies:
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
- Allegan County Emergency Management
- American Red Cross
- Augusta Police Department
- B&B Fire Safety Emergency Response
- Calhoun Conservation District
- Calhoun County Commissioners
- Calhoun County Drain Commission
- Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office
- Calhoun County Treasurers Office
- Calhoun Conservation District
- Calhoun Greenation District
- City of Battle Creek, Michigan
- City of Marshall, Michigan
- Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
- Fredonia Township Fire Department
- Huron Potawatomi
- Kalamazoo County Office of Emergency Management
- Kalamazoo Public Safety
- Kalamazoo County Health Department
- Kalamazoo Watershed Council
- Marshall Township Government and Fire Department
- Marshall Police Department
- Michigan Department of Community Health
- Michigan Occupational Safety & Health Administration
- Natural Resource Group
- Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- U.S. Coast Guard Department of Homeland Security
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
- Occupational Safety & Health Administration
The current on-site Unified Command consists of U.S. EPA, MDEQ, and the responsible party. The rest of the former Unified Command, and a few select supporting and assisting agencies involved during the initial response now make up the Multi Agency Coordination (MAC) Group and provide ongoing advice and support.
How is the spill being contained?
So far, containment measures have limited the impact of the spill on the Kalamazoo River. To control the spill as much as possible, EPA and Enbridge have been placing containment and absorbent boom at strategic points on the river. Boom is a barrier to control spills on water. Containment boom keeps the oil from spreading. Absorbent boom, in addition to stopping the spread, soaks up the oil.At the control points, silt curtains are used to limit the movement of submerged oil. Floating oil, or “sheen” is collected at control points throughout the river system. Protective boom is also placed around islands and clean areas to keep them safe from potential recontamination.
What measures are being taken for the health and safety of those responding to the spill?
EPA, Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) and state and local responders have specific guidelines for working in an oil-related chemical environment. Cleanup crews must have specific safety training, skill sets, qualifications and certifications to ensure the safety of the spill site. Additionally, those working within the oil-affected areas are required to wear specific personal protective equipment. Safety and health officials are also on-scene monitoring oil spill response activities.
Will the spill affect the Kalamazoo River Superfund Site?
The initial spill occurred near Marshall, Mich. The Kalamazoo River Superfund Site is not expected to be affected by the spill, but officials continue to monitor developments on the river.
Archived Questions and Answers from 2010
The following questions and answers were relevant during the early days of the spill. They don't apply to the current state of the cleanup, but are here for historical and reference purposes.
What is causing the odor? Will clean-up activities increase odor problems?
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) found in the crude oil are causing the odors. You can smell most pollutants related to the oil spill well below levels that would cause health problems. During the clean-up process, more odors may be released into the air as the oil is stirred up. The odors will be strongest near locations where crude oil is present.
Is the odor bad for my health?
It is important to understand that people are able to smell some VOCs at levels lower than would cause long-term health problems. Some of the chemicals that cause the odors may cause headaches, dizziness, nausea or vomiting. If you are sensitive to VOCs, stay indoors. If you continue to experience odor problems, contact the Enbridge public information line, (800) 306-6837. If possible, close windows and doors, turn your air conditioner on and set to a recirculation mode. If you have severe nausea or other medical issues, please see your health care provider as soon as possible.
Who will take care of my pets if I am evacuated voluntarily?
Enbridge has committed assistance to anyone who lives within the voluntary relocation areas along the Kalamazoo River. Those affected should call the Enbridge public information line, (800) 306-6837, where specific questions regarding individual situations can be answered.
What is being done to protect us from chemicals from the oil spill?
Public health officials are continuing to have air and water tested for harmful chemicals in affected areas around the clock. Based on these test results, officials are making decisions about the need to take actions such as evacuation recommendations and water advisories. Monitoring of air and water will continue as necessary to protect human health and the environment.
How might benzene affect my health?
In some areas affected by the spill, Calhoun County Public Health Department issued voluntary evacuation notices based on the level of benzene measured in the air. Exposure to these levels of benzene can affect people differently. Some people may feel sleepy or dizzy. Others may get headaches. Benzene can also cause nausea, vomiting, or a rapid heart rate. Long-term exposures to benzene may increase your risk of cancer. This is one of the key reasons the Calhoun County Public Health Department issued a voluntary evacuation, recommending residents temporarily relocate from the most highly impacted areas until the oil-related chemicals no longer pose a human health threat.
Who will pay for my doctor visits and medical bills?
People directly affected by the oil spill should call the Enbridge public information line, (800) 306-6837, with specific questions regarding individual situations.
Why is Enbridge taking over Sampling and Analysis responsibilities?
EPA required Enbridge to develop and implement a sampling and analysis program that is consistent with EPA's requirements. The Enbridge Quality Assurance Project Plan (PDF) (174pp, 26MB) and Sampling and Analysis Plan (PDF) (228pp, 73MB) were approved by EPA on August 18, 2010. Both Enbridge and EPA have collected significant samples since the beginning of the project to assess potential impacts to human health and the environment. As the emergency phase has ended and the cleanup phase has progressed, EPA has tasked Enbridge to take on these responsibilities with EPA oversight. EPA will continue to collect limited samples to verify Enbridge's work where necessary