The Pipeline of ‘Poison’

The aftermath of a tar sands oil spill in Michigan has left a community with sickness, anger, and loss of livelihood.

An underground pipeline owned by Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge Energy Partners LP, began gushing into the Kalamazoo River area, and the affected area of the river remains closed to this day (GALLO/GETTY)

Deb Miller lives less than 30 metres from the Kalamazoo River in central Michigan, site of one of the largest inland tar sands oil disasters in US history.

In July 2010, nearly four million litres of toxic tar sands crude oil gushed into the river following the rupture of the Lakehead Pipeline 6B belonging to Enbridge Energy Partners, a Canadian oil and gas transportation company.

Meeting with other area residents at the office she owns with her husband on the banks of the Kalamazoo, Miller describes the adverse health effects she has suffered in the wake of the spill, including migraine headaches, burning eyes, a persistent sore throat, and a “cloudy brain” condition that she half-jokingly refers to as “Oil Alzheimer’s”.

The Lakehead Pipeline 6B that burst was built in 1969 to transport regular oil, not tar sands crude – which is as thick as peanut butter and must be injected with chemicals in order to enable transportation.

The Michigan spill is Enbridge Energy’s largest to date in the United States.

Outside the office window, oil cleanup workers wearing white Tyvek suits arrive in a boat, apparently to collect samples from the silvery sheen of the river’s surface.

The river has been closed for over a year.

Rashes and seizures

Despite grave health concerns among the local community, Miller told Al Jazeera that she has yet to receive a visit from her county or state health department.

Al Jazeera’s Witness investigates how residents of a
Canadian town are engaged in a David and Goliath-style
battle over the dirtiest oil project ever known.

Susan Connolly, a paralegal who resides in the nearby town of Marshall, said her children showed signs of exposure immediately after the spill occurred: “My son started vomiting and my daughter got a weird rash five days into it.”

Read the full story at Al Jazeera English.