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The Dilbit Disaster in Maps and Photographs

On Sunday July 25, 2010, at 5:58 p.m. local time, Enbridge Line 6B ruptured near Marshall, Mich., and released more than one million gallons of Canadian diluted bitumen into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

Illustration by Catherine Mann for InsideClimate News


Map
 of 
Enbridge 
Line 
6B, 
showing 
pump 
stations 
along 
its 
293‐mile 
length. 
Built 
in
 1969,
 the line is part of Enbridge's Lakehead system which transports Canadian oil to refining centers in the Great Lakes region, the Midwest, and Ontario.

Source: NTSB

The Kalamazoo River flows westward into Lake Michigan, which together with the other four Great Lakes provides drinking water for at least 26 million Americans and close to 10 million Canadians. The rupture point of Line 6B near Marshall was 115 river miles from Lake Michigan.

Source: NTSB

The six-and-a-half foot rupture in Line 6B. More than one million gallons of dilbit escaped from this tear along the seam of the pipe before Enbridge could contain the spill.

Source: NTSB

An aerial view of boom deployed on the Kalamazoo during the first days of the spill to try to contain the oil that blackened the river’s waters. The most immediate concern was keeping the oil from reaching Lake Michigan.

Source: EPA

An aerial view of Talmadge Creek near the site of the pipeline rupture days after the spill. The creek was running black for two miles before it emptied into the Kalamazoo.

Source: NTSB

The EPA first estimated that the cleanup of the spill would take two months, but more than 35 miles of the Kalamazoo River remained closed to the public for almost two years. Agency officials didn’t learn until later that they were dealing with dilbit, not conventional oil, nor how unusual and difficult the effort would be.

Photo: Elizabeth McGowan, InsideClimate News

The roots of a tree along the Kalamazoo River blackened by the dilbit spill. More than 186,000 cubic yards of soil and debris were collected and disposed of as part of the clean-up effort.

Photo: Elizabeth McGowan, InsideClimate News

A simulation of the computer screens that pipeline operators in Edmonton, Alberta, were looking at during the rupture of Line 6B, 1500 miles away. They didn’t discover the leak for 17 hours.

Source: Enbridge/NTSB

Two operators sitting in the cubicle marked “Channel 14” (circled in orange) are responsible for operating Line 6B, in addition to lines 4, 14, 8884, 8894, 3, 17, 8883, 8896 and 8837. Their shifts last 12 hours. Two “shift leads” sitting in the cubicles marked Channel 43 and Channel 35 (outlined in black) oversee the work of the entire Enbridge control room. From the time of the rupture until it was discovered, three different shifts were at the controls.

Source: Enbridge/NTSB

Initial cleanup of a 5-acre contaminated zone in the pipeline break area.

Source: EPA

Part of the cleanup involved scraping and disposing of the soil on either side of Talmadge Creek, shown here.

Source: EPA

Scraped soil, heavy with dilbit, was collected in this staging area before being shipped off for disposal.

Source: EPA

Islands in the Kalamazoo River contaminated by dilbit, like this one, were surrounded by boom in the first month of the cleanup. Some islands required soil removal and disposal.

Source: EPA

On the first day of the spill, riverside resident Deb Miller watched a brown mist rise as river water tumbled over the Ceresco dam.

Source: EPA

It was almost a month before cleanup teams first discovered that much of the dilbit had settled on the river bottom. Crews began to map places where submerged oil appeared to be collecting, using poles to disturb bottom sediments and observing if an oil sheen rose to the surface. This stretch of river is just above Ceresco dam.

Source: Submerged Oil Task Force

Submerged oil recovery operation in the Mill Pond area near Battle Creek, Mich.

Source: EPA

Cleanup experts had to invent methods of recovering submerged oil from the river bottom without destroying the ecosystem. Here workers aerate the water to disturb the settled oil so it would rise to surface for collection.

Source: EPA

Aerial view of the Morrow Lake delta, where a small area of the Kalamazoo River is still closed. Red dots indicate the location of submerged oil surveyed soon after the spill. An unknown amount of oil still remains on the river bottom, even though most of the river was opened to the public in June 2012.

Source: Submerged Oil Task Force