COMSTOCK TOWNSHIP, Michigan — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has denied Enbridge Inc.'s request for a 10-month extension of its deadline for dredging sections of the Kalamazoo River, polluted by an 800,000-gallon-plus oil pipeline leak in 2010.
The deadline to finish the work remains Dec. 31. The EPA told Enbridge in a letter Nov. 21 that if Enbridge has acted earlier, "it would not require an extension now."
The EPA ordered the dredging in March, after it had confirmed the presence of submerged oil in three areas.
Enbridge has said opposition from authorities in Kalamazoo County's Comstock Township to creating a dredge pad slowed the cleanup. But the EPA says the Calgary, Alberta-based company should have had a backup plan.
"Enbridge has known since at least the middle of July 2013 that there was serious opposition," the EPA wrote.
Enbridge spokesman Jason Manshum told MLive.com on Monday that the company did everything it could to expedite the cleanup.
"We have thoroughly researched and examined every possible way to be compliant with this order," Manshum said. "If it were as simple as coming up with another plan or location, it would have been instituted weeks or months ago. We have not left any stone unturned."
The pipeline that leaked runs from Sarnia, Ontario, to Griffith, Indiana
The EPA said that it wants Enbridge to continue the cleanup through the river and not to stop when the river freezes. Even so, Enbridge could face penalties for missing the Dec. 31 deadline, the EPA said.
"Nothing in this letter excuses any noncompliance with the Order nor does it serve as the granting of any extension to any deadline in the order," the letter said.
The 40-mile stretch of river included in the EPA order requires dredging upstream of the Ceresco Dam, the Mill Ponds area in Battle Creek and the Morrow Lake delta in Galesburg. Work also is planned in Kalamazoo County's Comstock Township.
Dredging includes many steps of filtering. Crews set up containment areas and do some dredging with a pontoon excavator to remove woody debris and to allow for large equipment, while laying pipe through the river. Dredge equipment on boats then enters the area enclosed by oil booms.