Saving Wildlife From The Midwestern Oil Spill
JACKI LYDEN, host:
Far from the Gulf of Mexico, people in Western Michigan are dealing with a large oil spill. An oil pipe burst this week in Marshall, Michigan, a town on the Kalamazoo River, about 80 miles east of Lake Michigan. The flow of oil has been shut off but the EPA estimates that more than a million gallons of crude leaked out, affecting a 30-mile stretch of the river.
Michigan Radio reporter Rebecca Williams is covering the story and she joins us from an ad hoc wildlife rehabilitation center in Marshall. Hello there, Rebecca.
REBECCA WILLIAMS: Hi, Jacki.
LYDEN: So, could you tell us what you've seen from this oil spill?
WILLIAMS: Well, you can't get right to the place where the oil spill happened -that's considered a hot zone. But I did go to Thoresco Dam(ph), which is downstream. I saw vacuum trucks there. They were sucking oil off the surface. The residents of Marshall have seen oiled animals and are reporting them.
LYDEN: What are people telling you in terms of how they feel about the spill? What are their concerns?
WILLIAMS: Basically a lot of people are worried about the smell. There's a strong - not so much today but earlier this week - there was a strong smell of oil down - in near downtown where I was. I could actually smell the oil off the highway and a lot of people were complaining about the odor.
I also heard from Calhoun County officials on Thursday. They were asking people who have wells near the river to drink bottled water instead of drinking their water because they were concerned about contamination.
LYDEN: Rebecca, I know that you're at a wildlife shelter where they're trying to clean animals. Could you help us speak to someone there?
WILLIAMS: Sure. I've been speaking with Linda Elliott. She's a wildlife cure manager with a group called Focus Wildlife. They're contractors for the energy company.
Ms. LINDA ELLIOTT (Wildlife Cure Manager, Focus Wildlife): Hello, this is Linda.
LYDEN: Hi, Linda. It's Jacki Lyden.
Ms. ELLIOTT: Hi, Jacki.
LYDEN: So have you seen any affected animals yet?
Ms. ELLIOTT: Yes. I am here at the wildlife center and we're working with close to 50 animals at this time. We have a variety of geese, some swan, some ducks, king fisher, and some mammals - only right now muskrats and we've got some turtles in care as well.
LYDEN: So how seriously affected do you think wildlife birds and fish and muskrats have been there?
Ms. ELLIOTT: You know, we won't know. It's still early on. The animals are still coming in on a daily basis right now in small numbers. There are search and collection teams out there as we speak. You know, it is a lot of wilderness area along with areas that do have backyards, you know, right up to the river. So, they are using boats and canoes to do this work as well as on-the-ground fieldwork.
LYDEN: Well, we wish you good luck with that, Linda. Could you please pass us back to Rebecca?
Ms. ELLIOTT: I'd be glad to.
LYDEN: Thank you.
WILLIAMS: Hi, Jacki.
LYDEN: Hi, Rebecca. So, what do you think is going to be ahead this weekend, looking at what we'll learn about this spill and what some of the repercussions might be?
WILLIAMS: At this point, nobody - as of right now - nobody seems too concerned, from the standpoint of the EPA or the company, that the oil will get to Lake Michigan, but the governor is still concerned that that is a possibility.
LYDEN: Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan.
WILLIAMS: That's right.
LYDEN: Uh-huh. And any last words - have you heard about the size or the amount of oil that's leaked, the numbers of gallons?
WILLIAMS: The latest estimate from the EPA is, they're saying more than one million gallons. The company is still standing by their estimate of about 819,000 gallons.
LYDEN: Rebecca Williams of Michigan Radio. We also spoke with Linda Elliott, who is helping at a temporary wildlife shelter. Thank you very, very much.
WILLIAMS: You're welcome.