Five Years Later, Michigan Remembers Enbridge's Assault on Kalamazoo River

Hundreds of climate activists and local residents marched in the town of Battle Creek, Michigan on Saturday to mark five years since the rupture of a tar sands oil pipeline operated by the Canada-based Enbridge corporation dumped more than one million gallons of crude into the Kalamazoo River and other waterways – the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

In the march that alternated between silence and solemn refrains of chants and songs, those who walked carried banners that read: “We Remember the Kalamazoo” and “Stop the Enbridge Pipeline Invasion.”

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Participants in the march, and those supporting it from afar, were using the hashtag #RememberTheKalamazoo to document the day’s events and reflect on the environmental disaster which has been used as a primary example of the dangers of tar sands:

#RememberTheKalamazoo Tweets

Articulating why the Kalamazoo spill deserves special recognition, the executive director of the Sierra Club Michael Brune, in a blog post on Friday, explained:

Though Enbridge has said its cleanup operations led to a successful outcome and some local officials have tried to spin the unparalleled tragedy as something that was actually positive for local communities, neither of those lines received endorsement during Saturday’s event.

And as Brian Palmer reported this week for for OnEarth:

Meanwhile, local environmentalists feel that a state task force commissioned to guide the cleanup and recovery process, in fact, accomplished little and that five years after the spill Enbridge’s operation of other pipelines in the region leaves continue to put residents, waterways, wildlife, and the planet at risk.

“I don’t think we can honestly say we’re any safer from catastrophic oil spills than we were five years ago,” said Andy McGlashen, communications director for the Michigan Environmental Council, to the Detroit Free Press. “After all, the same company that caused the Kalamazoo spill is still pumping about 23 million gallons of oil a day through the heart of the Great Lakes. However, we are much more aware of the danger the pipelines pose, and that gives us the opportunity to improve safety.”

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