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EGLE response to Ottawa County spill good example of cross-division interaction during emergency response

August 8, 2019

Repair to the line that ruptured showing contaminated soil.

Throughout the year, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) responds to hundreds of environmental emergencies through the Pollution Emergency Alerting System.

One of those calls came on New Year's Day 2019 from a local fisherman when he noticed oil on the exterior of his boat. The reported spill was in eastern Ottawa County on a bayou near the Grand River. Within hours, local emergency responders were able to find the source of the leaking oil -- a leak in a small-diameter pipeline serving an oil well operated by Fisher McCall (Fisher McCall) Oil and Gas. Responders arranged for power to be shut off to all wells in the area and placed an absorbent boom around the spill to keep it from entering the Grand River. During the initial hours, the National Response Center was contacted to ensure that federal response agencies were aware of the spill.

The next day, a "Unified Command" was established between Ottawa County Emergency Management (OCEM), EGLE, Georgetown Township Fire Department (GTFD), Michigan State Police (MSP), Westshore Consulting, and Fisher McCall. The Unified Command developed daily Incident Action Plans that were followed during the response phase of the cleanup. Young's Environmental, retained by Fisher McCall, initiated response activities that included skimming oil, setting absorbent booms, and removing contaminated soil and vegetation. The MSP flew several drone flights over the spill area to help crews determine where to focus cleanup activities and to make sure oil was not entering the Grand River. The MSP also coordinated truck traffic across an active airport runway.

Several EGLE divisions, including Remediation and Redevelopment, Water Resources, and Oil, Gas and Minerals, coordinated their response activities. The experience and dedication of the highly trained staff from OCEM, MSP and GTFD were critical to the efficient and timely spill recovery and cleanup. The following response activities were accomplished within a week:

  • Over a dozen oil booms were set in place;
  • Approximately 16,000 gallons of oil and water were collected into trailer-mounted tanks; 
  • A turbidity curtain was placed around the saturated bank of the bayou; 
  • Three roll-off boxes of contaminated vegetation were collected; 
  • Six roll-off boxes of contaminated soil were removed from the edge of the bank; and  
  • An interim plan was developed to address longer term issues.  

Response activities slowed with January’s extreme ice and snow conditions; however, they kicked into gear with the onset of warmer temperatures. Remediation of the site continues, and EGLE is working closely with private industry and local government to bring this situation to a close. The use of Unified Command as part of the National Incident Management System was a critical part in coordinating the different agencies in completing their tasks efficiently and successfully. “From the initial notification to recovery, the response from EGLE to the Fisher McCall site was a shining example of proper cross-division interaction during an emergency response,” said Jay Eickholt, EGLE Emergency Manager.


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