Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

EPA orders Enbridge to dredge river two years after oil spill

Enbridge wants to reverse the flow of the pipeline it operates between Sarnia, Ont., and Montreal to send oil eastward, a project Quebec is considering.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

More than 21/2 years after a Canadian pipeline rupture spilled heavy oil into a Michigan river, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is ordering Calgary-based Enbridge to perform additional dredging to remove submerged oil.

The agency said it has repeatedly found oil in sections of the Kalamazoo River.

"The dredging required by EPA's order will prevent submerged oil from migrating to downstream areas where it will be more difficult or impossible to recover," the EPA said Thursday.

Story continues below advertisement

The agency is also ordering Enbridge – proponent of the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline through northern British Columbia – to maintain sediment traps throughout the river to capture oil outside the dredge areas. The agency gave the company 15 days to provide a work plan, and said dredging should begin this spring.

The July, 2010, spill near Marshall, Mich., has dogged the company as it proceeds through a federal review of the Northern Gateway to deliver oil-sands products to a tanker port in Kitimat, B.C. The ability to clean up diluted bitumen from Alberta's oil sands has been raised at the hearings by project opponents.

The EPA issued a searing report last year criticizing the company's spill response.

A letter sent Thursday to Rich Adams, vice-president of operations for Enbridge's U.S. operations, from EPA co-ordinator Ralph H. Dollhopf, said the oil mixed with river sediment and organic matter had turned to sludge, "making it difficult to find and recover."

EPA documents note that they met twice with company officials about the administrative order.

"Enbridge's comments challenged the validity and interpretation of the data relied upon by U.S. EPA in making its determination … ," said a 36-page response. In it, the agency discounts Enbridge's suggestion that allowing the oil to biodegrade is the best option for dealing with the remaining oil.

Story continues below advertisement

Report an error
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles as we switch to a new provider. We are behind schedule, but we are still working hard to bring you a new commenting system as soon as possible. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to