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What is going on with "big oil" in America? As the BP oil spill finally seems to be under some controll, Michigan and the Midwest region is now facing an oil disaster of its own. Last week, a pipeline leak caused over 800,000 gallons of oil to spill into the Kalamazoo River, polluting the river, killing wildlife, and leaving a toxic odor hovering over the community. This is the largest Midwest oil spill in history. Regulatory agencies had been warning the owner, Enbridge Energy Partners, about its antiquated pipeline and associated equipment. Apparently, it was too little, too late.

The pipeline, built in 1969, carries about 8 million gallons of oil per day from Indiana to Ontario. It has been shut down. The cause of the leak is under investigation; the immediate concern is on limiting the damage, cleaning up the oil, and minimizing the leak’s impact to surrounding communities. Residents and business owners were not required to evacuate, although they were advised not to eat fish from the waterways or have any contact with river water or wildlife. Farmers were advised not to use the water for irrigation or livestock.

It is not clear at this time how long the clean-up process will take or when the air and water will be safe again. While crews are working to stop the oil from moving further downstream, and to minimize the environmental impact, oil-covered birds and fish can already be seen along the banks of the river. Officials are not only concerned about the effects of the oil spill and its impact to the environment, but also the lasting health effects. The magnitude of the spill can be detrimental to the area’s water supply. Additionally, the strong odor from the high levels of benzene hovering over the area is toxic to anyone who comes in contact with the water or breathes in the fumes. Breathing in these toxic fumes can burn the nose and lungs, therefore workers need to wear respirators during the clean-up process. Enbridge has begun testing the air and feels the levels are not high enough for concern. Still, it is a toxic, cancer causing chemical. How long will it linger? What is the potential for long-term affects?

Let’s hope that this clean-up effort goes much more smoothly and quickly than the BP spill in the Gulf. If it doesn’t, the Great Lakes may be at risk. Like Florida, Michigan attracts tourists yearly for its beautiful lakes and beaches. Enbridge has apologized for the spill and the impact to the community and the waterways. That’s nice, but what are oil companies doing to implement safety measures to avoid these environmental catastrophies? Why are they operating with so little concern for safety and with little or no safety standards? Are oil companies cutting costs at the risk of human lives and our environment? When will the insanity stop?

Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit fundingindustry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life funding is needed during litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

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