The Michigan Dilbit Disaster: Inside The Biggest Oil Spill You've Never Heard Of
So DilBit (diluted bitumen) is a mixture of tar sands (aka bitumen) from Canada and a whole cocktail of dangerous solvents like benzene. This is what many pipelines from Canada carry into the U.S.A. It's not oil, but a highly-toxic substance that can be refined into oil with a lot of work and pollution. Which is why we do it in America and not Canada.
In 2010, jut after the Gulf of Mexico got filled with oil, a pipeline in Southwestern Michigan, near Kalamazoo, ruptured and dumped millions of gallons of DilBit (remember, not oil) into the fresh water rivers of Michigan. The press largely ignored this, focusing instead on the sexier Gulf disaster.
And guess what? That DilBit spill is STILL THERE in Michigan's waters.
The HUGE problem with pumping DilBit through these pipes as opposed to, say oil, is that DilBit contains huge amounts of corrosive solvents that actively eat away at the pipes they are being piped through. It's an environmental time bomb and our legislators have been bribed to make it perfectly legal.
Instead of remaining on top of the water, as most conventional crude oil does, the bitumen gradually sank to the river’s bottom, where normal cleanup techniques and equipment were of little use. Meanwhile, the benzene and other chemicals that had been added to liquefy the bitumen evaporated into the air.
InsideClimate News also learned that federal and local officials didn’t discover until more than a week after the spill that 6B was carrying dilbit, not conventional oil. Federal regulations do not require pipeline operators to disclose that information. And Enbridge officials did not volunteer it.
Mark Durno, an EPA deputy incident commander who is still involved in the cleanup in Marshall, is among those who were surprised by what they found.
“Submerged oil is what makes this thing more unique than even the Gulf of Mexico situation,” Durno told InsideClimate News. “Yes, that was huge—but they knew the beast they were dealing with. This experience was brand new for us. It would have been brand new for anyone in the United States.”