- Associated Press - Thursday, July 29, 2010

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) | A Canadian company whose pipeline leaked hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into a Michigan river was warned by government regulators in January that its monitoring of corrosion in the pipeline was insufficient.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration told Enbridge Energy Partners Chairman Terry McGill in a Jan. 21 letter that its corrosion monitoring in Line 6B, the line that ruptured, did not comply with federal regulations.

According to the warning, Enbridge was implementing an alternate way of monitoring corrosion in the pipeline, and had detailed to regulators the steps it was taking to track corrosion in the meantime.

But the agency warned the company in the letter that it was violating code by not using certain chemicals used to protect pipe interiors, not using proper monitoring equipment to determine those chemicals were working, and not examining its monitoring equipment at least twice a year.

“The transition from one technology to another must be implemented in a manner that ensures continued compliance with the regulations,” the agency wrote.

Enbridge spokeswoman Lorraine Grymala said Thursday she had no comment about the letter.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the leak dumped more than 1 million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River and a creek that flows into it on Monday. The company’s estimate is smaller - 819,000 gallons.

By late Wednesday, the oil had traveled at least 35 miles downstream from where it leaked in Calhoun County’s Marshall Township, killing fish, coating other wildlife and emitting a strong, unpleasant odor.

It had passed through Battle Creek, a city of 52,000 residents about 110 miles west of Detroit, and was headed toward Morrow Lake, a key point near a Superfund site upstream of Kalamazoo, the largest city in the region. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has warned of a “tragedy of historic proportions” should the oil reach Lake Michigan some 80 miles away, and the vacation communities that depend on it.

State and company officials had said earlier this week they didn’t think the oil would spread past a dam at the lake, and that they would be able to contain it there.

But Tom Sands, the deputy state director for emergency management and homeland security, said during a conference call with Mrs. Granholm on Wednesday that he had seen oil that had made it past the dam while he was flying over the area.

On Thursday, EPA spokesman Mick Hans said its incident commander was in the same plane as Mr. Sands and wasn’t convinced oil had passed the dam. Mr. Hans said the EPA, however, wasn’t trying to take issue with the report.

“We’re all working together,” he said. “Sometimes you get different technical interpretations.”

The company’s latest update statement Wednesday said oil was about seven miles short of the opening to Morrow Lake.

Mrs. Granholm on Wednesday called on the federal government for more help, saying resources being marshaled by the EPA and Enbridge were “wholly inadequate.”

The Calgary, Alberta-based company said Wednesday and Thursday that it was ramping up its efforts to contain and clean up the mess. Chief Executive Patrick D. Daniel said the company had made “significant progress,” though he had no update on a possible cause, cost or timeframe for the cleanup.



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