Oil Spill Responders Draw Down, Look to Revenue Boost

By: Jay Greene
Crains Detroit Business 10/18/2010
(*excerpts from article)

 

Wayne-based EQ – The Environmental Quality Company and Detroit-based Marine Pollution Control are winding down their emergency-response teams on the Kalamazoo River, the site of one of the Midwest’s largest crude oil spills.

“We got up to about 450 employees (by the third week). We are down to about 220 now,” said Tom Schuck, EQ’s executive vice president who is in charge of industrial services and emergency response.

“We cleaned 64 miles of shoreline (over two months). It looks pretty clean now.”

It was a different story in Marshall Township in late July, when 850,000 gallons of thick, black crude oil began spilling out of a ruptured 30-inch pipe into the Tallmadge Creek.

Within hours of getting the call, EQ and Marine Pollution activated their emergency response teams and headed to the disaster zone under pre-negotiated contracts.

“In our business, you want to have the agreement signed so there is no delay in the response,” said Schuck.

Working under a contract through Flint-based Young’s Environmental Cleanup Services, Schuck said EQ’s advance emergency response team arrived at the site the day after the spill.

“Our piece was disposal and getting the labor and equipment out there,” Schuck said.

Two EQ employees acquired a staging area to house 227 pieces of equipment for the cleanup. The $6 million worth of equipment included oil skimmers, vacuum trucks, tanks to hold collected oil, forklifts, boats, dewatering equipment and booms to trap the oil.

Within a week, EQ had 145 employees working around the clock to clean up the shoreline, picking up debris and containing the spill that eventually would cover 38 miles of the river, to Marrow Lake, near Galesburg.

With Enbridge Liquids Pipelines, the Canadian company responsible for the spill, spending an estimated $300 million to $400 million on cleanup and remediation.

During the first few days, some experts feared the massive oil spill, which occurred two months after the Gulf of Mexico’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster that EQ also helped clean up, might reach Lake Michigan some 60 miles downstream if efforts to contain the oil were not successful.

“The disaster zone was divided up into 38 zones. We had six, Young’s had six and Chartier managed six,” said Mike McInnis, an EQ vice president in emergency response.

Each zone consisted of about 3,000 feet along the river.

“We had three Michigan-based companies (EQ, Young’s, and Chartier) working well together as a team,” said McInnis.

“We met each morning in the same trailer and discussed how to attack the river,” McInnis said. “If one zone needed more help, we would move personnel and equipment over there.”

Schuck said EQ hauled about 5.5 million pounds of waste collected from the oil spill and transported it to its Detroit waste-processing facility, where the cleaned residue was deposited in its landfill in Belleville.

“We skim the oil on the river separate the water from the oil and it is refined and sold as gasoline,” McInnis said.

Over the next few months as the response effort moves from the cleanup to long-term remediation and restoration, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment said it will work closely with Enbridge and the EPA to ensure the site is returned to normal.

“We expect to complete our work sometime in December,” McInnis said. “DNR will continue to sample the water and evaluate the soil and fish for contamination over the next several years.”

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