The oldest and largest Michigan brewery is filing suit against the Canadian energy company Enbridge after an oil pipeline broke and spilled about 843,000 gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River. The suit from Bell’s Brewery underscores not only safety concerns about tar sands pipelines like the Keystone XL, but also the fact that spill cleanup causes even more pollution and public health hazards than the spill itself.
The Enbridge spill, which took place July 26, 2010, was the largest tar sands spill in U.S. history. According to Clean Technica, the cleanup is still incomplete and the Environmental Protection Agency said up to 168,000 gallons of oil could be permanently left in river.
While the beer itself was not affected at all, Bell’s Brewery sued when Enbridge began constructing a facility a few hundred feet away from their doorstep to process dredged sediment from the spill.
Bell’s Brewery will be negatively impacted by the dredging because it will "release pollution, hazardous substances, odor, dust and particulate," said the suit filed Monday in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court.
The EPA ordered Enbridge to do dredging as part of their continued cleanup effort in March. They began constructing a dredge pad without notifying Comstock Township of the work. Now residents and businesses are worried about the threat of pollution.
"The EPA doesn’t know what is in the sediment," said Larry Bell, the founder and president, who met with EPA officials earlier this month. "They don’t know what they are dredging up. They are going to put it next to my brewery and they don’t know what contaminants are there."
Working on a tight deadline, Enbridge is in a big hurry to get the pad finished.
"Recently, the U.S. EPA ordered additional dredging activities in certain sections of the Kalamazoo River that must be completed by December 31, 2013," said Enbridge spokesman Jason Manshum. "Therefore, we leased property from CCP to use in order to comply with the Order. We are working with the owner of the property to address Bells Brewery concerns."
However, rushing to completion has backfired time and again. In January 2011, President Barack Obama’s oil spill commission found that a series of cost-cutting decisions made by BP and its partners ultimately led to the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, killing 11 workers and injuring 16 others.
Township Supervisor Anne Nieuwenhuis said she does not even think Enbridge is building the dredge pad in the right place.
The Michigan lawsuit follows a report from a watchdog group that the Keystone pipeline will increase the price of gas in the United States particularly in the Midwest.