Company hires contractors and handles claims, but cost for Mich. oil spill not yet determined

By Tim Martin, AP
Friday, August 13, 2010

Enbridge: No cost estimate yet for Mich. oil spill

MARSHALL, Mich. — The Canadian company whose pipeline spilled hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into a southern Michigan waterway has nearly 1,000 workers on cleanup duty. It hired about 80 companies, from wildlife rescuers to environmental response crews, and is settling about 800 damage claims with area residents.

But it may be another week or so before Enbridge Inc. is ready to estimate the total cleanup bill for the spill it reported July 26, chief executive Patrick Daniel told The Associated Press on Friday.

“Realize that it’s a bit of a moving target, and our focus has been very much on containment and cleanup rather than cost estimation,” he said. “We’ve indicated we’re fully responsible for all costs, and we don’t know exactly what the costs are of the agencies that have been working with us. We will try to give a reasonable estimate of that as soon as possible.”

The Calgary, Alberta-based company estimated 820,000 gallons of oil leaked from the pipeline near Marshall, though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it could be more than 1 million gallons. Much of it went into the Kalamazoo River, moving more than 25 miles downstream past Battle Creek. Federal authorities said cleanup is progressing well and the cause of the leak is under investigation.

It’s not yet known when the pipeline running from Griffith, Ind. to Sarnia, Ontario, might restart. Enbridge planned to file a revised startup plan with federal regulators Friday.

Enbridge is on the hook for the costs of federal agencies responding to the spill. The EPA, for example, has been authorized to spend up to $13 million and might have to ask for more. The EPA said Friday it already has incurred costs of $8.5 million and it will recover all of its costs from Enbridge.

Enbridge also is paying to move millions of gallons of river water and oil and tons of contaminated soil away from the spill site, along with other cleanup and remediation work.

The damage claims from residents typically average a few hundred dollars, Daniel said. He said claims vary from reimbursement for hotel stays to inconvenience payments for having to take different routes to work because of road blockages.

Daniel, who leads the 6,000-employee company, has remained near the spill site since the day the incident was reported. He’s held several media briefings and has been accessible to community leaders and residents.

Daniel said he hasn’t decided when he might return to Calgary.

“We still have a lot to do here,” he said. “I feel a pretty strong responsibility to try to return things as close to normal as possible.”

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