Listen: 911 calls on Michigan oil spill

By Todd Heywood
Michigan Messenger

The Battle Creek Enquirer has released the 911 tapes from July 25 related to the oil spill in Calhoun County.  Click here to listen.

When the spill started and how officials responded has been a part of the ongoing probe by federal and state officials. The 911 tapes show there were numerous calls on the smell of the spill.

Timeline of the Enbridge oil spill

Since July 25, 2010, the south central region of Michigan has been suffering the effects of the release of an estimated one million gallons of crude oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. While there are many issues to resolve in regard to the spill, there is a key feature of the incident which is slowly coming into focus — the timeline.

The timeline is crucial as it will help to determine when the line began leaking and when Enbridge and local officials first became aware of it. Michigan Messenger has been asking these timeline questions from the beginning, and we are not alone. The National Transportation Safety Board — which investigates oil spills and other incidents in the United States — has said its investigation is also focused on the timeline.

Michigan Messenger has reported over the last week, in dribbles, bits of information on the timeline. That information has come from 911 call logs, NTSB briefings, fire incident reports, elected officials and interviews with responders. The following timeline is based on all that information, and the source of the information is noted at the end of each entry in italics.

There remain significant gaps in the timeline, as well as in the information about what exactly was happening at specific points. As Messenger verifies more information, this post will be updated to reflect the new information.

Sunday July 25, 2010

     
    5:56 p.m. Officials at Enbridge Energy’s Edmonton, Alberta control center effect a shut down of Lakehead Pipeline 6B, the line were the leak occurred. The shut down was previously scheduled for routine upkeep of the line. (NTSB, Schauer) 
    5:58 p.m. Officials at Enbridge Energy’s Edmonton, Alberta control center receive an alarm that pressure has dropped in line 6B. The Marshall pumping station goes into shut down. (NTSB, Schauer)
    9:26 p.m. The first of what will become numerous phone calls comes into the Calhoun County Consolidated Dispatch Authority reporting a dense smell of natural gas. (911 logs, Schauer, NTSB)
    9:27 p.m. City of Marshall firefighters are dispatched to investigate the gas smell. (911 logs)
    9:51 p.m. The Calhoun County Consolidated Dispatch Authority receives another call of “smell of natural gas coming from station.” City of Marshall firefighters are dispatched to Division Dr. and Old 27, directly in the area where the spill originated. (911 logs)
    9:53 p.m. The Calhoun County Consolidated Dispatch Authority changes the 9:51 p.m. call from City of Marshall fire fighters to Marshall Township fire fighters. (911 logs)
    10:00 p.m. City of Marshall firefighters clear the first call after reporting they found nothing for the source of the smell. (911 logs)
    10:00 p.m. to 10:54 p.m. City of Marshall and Marshall Township firefighters walk the area. They note they can smell the odor that has been reported, but their equipment is not detecting natural gas. An employee from Michigan Gas Utility arrives at some point in this time frame. The equipment from the Michigan Gas Utility also does not detect natural gas, however, the firefighters and the gas utility employee concur there is a smell in the area. One of them indicates it smells like petroleum, while the utility worker points to a nearby Clark Oil storage tank facility. (NTSB, Marshall Township Fire Department incident report)
    10:54 p.m. City of Marshall and Marshall Township firefighters clear the second call. (911 logs)
    11:04 p.m. Calhoun County Consolidated Dispatch Authority changes the address of a call from 16551 15 Mile Rd. to Division Rd and Old 27, near the site of the incident, which is later determined to be 16551 Division Rd. (911 logs)

It is important to note that 911 calls continued through the night and well into Monday July 26, 2010. (Schauer, 911 logs)

July 26, 2010

    12:30 a.m. Calhoun County Emergency Response Coordinator and Director Durk Dunham receives first call about the situation. (Dunham, 7/27 interview)
    4:04 a.m. Officials in the Edmonton, Alberta control room attempt to restart Lakehead Pipeline 6B. The system will not start up, and technicians spent nearly the next four hours “troubleshooting” the problem. (NTSB)
    4:26 a.m. Officials in Edmonton, Alberta call in mass balance analysts to assist with the start up. Officials increase the pressure in the line, as well as turn the line off and on “repeatedly.” (Schauer)
    7:52 a.m. Officials in Edmonton, Alberta order the line shut down, and the trouble area of Marshall sealed off. That means they closed valves at either end of a three mile stretch of pipeline. (Schauer, NTSB, Enbridge officials)
    9:49 a.m. Edmonton, Alberta control room officials dispatch an Enbridge employee to the pipeline. Employee reports “readings are at zero” and that he “doesn’t see anything.” (Schauer)
    11:11 a.m. Calhoun County Consolidated Dispatch Authority initiates a response call about “entire downtown smells like natural gas” in the city of Marshall. City of Marshall firefighters dispatched. (911 logs)
    11:16 a.m. Consumer’s Energy employee calls Enbridge to report visual confirmation of oil at the spill location. (Schauer, NTSB, Enbridge, EPA, county officials)
    11:27 a.m. Calhoun County Consolidated Dispatch Authority reports the units sent to respond to downtown are cleared. (911 logs)
    11:30 a.m. Enbridge local employees from Marshall begin deploying booms and skimmers to contain the spill. (Schauer)
    11:39 a.m. Calhoun County Consolidated Dispatch Authority receives first call confirming spill. “Contact BCFD (Battle Creek Fire Department) Hazmat (hazardous materials) team by TX (telephone), request that they respond to scene crude oil leak and it has filled the creek near this address, the oil co(mpany) is Embridge (sic) Oil Co(mpany).” The call records show that Gary from Consumers Energy is the one who discovered the oil. (911 log)
    11:41 a.m. Calhoun County Consolidated Dispatch Authority calls “Dirk (sic) Dunham and left message…” (911 logs)
    11:45 a.m. Enbridge identifies this time as the official time of the incident in reports filed with National Response Center. 0(Enbridge, NTSB, Schauer)
    11:49 a.m. Calhoun County Consolidated Dispatch Authority records “Per 886 there is an Embridge (sic) employee on scene, there may be a lead (sic) at the pumping statin (sic) I69/Division Dr.” (911 logs)
    11:50 a.m. Calhoun County Consolidated Dispatch Authority records “Embridge (sic) is getting bouys and doing some skimming.” (911 logs)
    11:51 a.m. Calhoun County Consolidated Dispatch Authority records “It is Enbridge Oil Co(mpany) not Embridge.” (911 logs)
    11:53 a.m. Calhoun County Consolidated Dispatch Authority records “Div Dr blocked off at Old 16 and 16 Mile Rd. Blocked at Adrn and Adrn at 15 Mile this request made by Jill Fish to Rd. Commission Pri(ority) response.” (911 logs)
    12:26 p.m. Calhoun County Consolidated Dispatch Authority records “ES1 (Emergency Services) enroute.” (911 logs)
    12:50 p.m. Calhoun County Consolidated Dispatch Authority records “Battle Creek FD (fire department) Hazmat enroute, eta 30 min” (911 logs)
    1:02 p.m. Operators for Calhoun County Consolidated Dispatch Authority records document previous radio traffic about Battle Creek Fire Department. Operators note that the original request to call the Hazmat unit was covered by other radio traffic. (911 logs)
    1:00 p.m. Enbridge calls National Response Center hotline and is placed on hold. Officials say they were put on hold for anywhere from 20 minutes to 30 minutes before hanging up and calling the NRC again. (Enbridge officials)
    1:33 p.m. Enbridge officially reports the incident to the National Response Center. (NRC, NTSB, Enbridge)

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