BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (CN) – Dozens of citizens sued Enbridge Energy Partners, claiming the oil pipeline company failed to immediately report a massive pipeline spill that dumped a million gallons of crude into the Kalamazoo River this summer. The Lakehead System, where the spill occurred, is the U.S. portion of the world’s longest oil pipeline, 1,900 miles from Western Canada to refineries in the Great Lakes, Midwest and Ontario.
The 48 plaintiffs seek $3.6 million in damages and remediation from Enbridge.
Enbridge waited several hours before reporting the leak from a 30-inch pipeline on the Lakehead system, according to the complaint in Calhoun County Court.
The oil spilled from a pumping station in Marshall, Mich., into Talmadge Creek and then to the Kalamazoo River, and reached the Fort Custer State Recreation Area that same day.
The spill caused “horrific fumes and odors” throughout the town of Battle Creek, while “oil-soaked waterfowl, dead birds and dead fish” were seen, according to the complaint. A state of emergency was declared there the day after the spill.
The families say they suffered from headaches, nausea, burning eyes and dizziness, and some had to evacuate their homes.
The Environmental Protection Agency found carcinogenic benzene in the air, and the plaintiffs were told not to drink from wells near the river.
The Battle Creek residents in addition to failing to immediately report the spill, Enbridge failed to take other steps to prevent an “environmental catastrophe,” though it knew of its risky operating conditions.
Each plaintiff seeks up to $75,000 in damages. They also want cleanup and restoration, along with continued environmental testing.
The Lakehead pipeline system transports 1.4 million gallons of crude oil per day from Ontario to refineries in the Midwest.
The plaintiffs are represented by Mike O’Briant.