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Boreal Community Media

Mineral oil sheen not detected after spill in Straits of Mackinac

Apr 06, 2018 09:31AM ● By Editor

MACKINAW CITY, Mich. (WLUC) - UPDATE: A Coast Guard marine science technician and an environmental quality analyst for Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality surveyed the Straits of Mackinac onboard a vessel this afternoon. The responders did not identify any mineral oil sheens, signs of pollution, or adverse impacts to the environment or wildlife.

Members of the U.S. Department of Agriculture are deploying to the scene to survey the area for any wildlife that may be affected by the mineral oil spill.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s new calculation for the trajectory of the spill is to the east and northeast of the utility line, due to changing weather conditions. The entities responsible for the operation of the water intakes in the surrounding communities have been notified of the change in trajectory, however there is still low risk to drinking water and the environment due to the product’s low toxicity and dilution in the waterway. The mineral oil is not known to be leaking from the source at this time, and the estimated amount of oil spilled remains at 600 gallons.
In the mineral oil, there is a dielectric fluid that contains a benzene compound.

“The benzene molecule is known to cause cancer but these larger chemicals (benzene compounds in the dielectric fluid) have not been classified as causing cancer," said Edward Primeau, an industrial hygienist from the Coast Guard Atlantic Strike Team. 
Crews continue to extract the oil from the affected two utility lines.

The Unified Command has isolated the impacted utility lines and is monitoring the removal progress of the remaining mineral oil from those lines, Thursday.

The Oil Spill Response Organization, contracted by the American Transmission Company, removed approximately 10 percent of the mineral oil from one of the utility lines yesterday. The Unified Command will continue to consult with oil recovery experts and engineers today to ensure the oil extraction process is effective.

Approximately 400 gallons of oil remains in each utility line and is not known to be leaking from the source. The estimate that 600 gallons of mineral oil leaked from the utility lines before securing the source remains unchanged.

The Coast Guard deployed an MH-60 Jayhawk crew from Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City on Monday and Wednesday afternoon to search for pollution over the Straits of Mackinac. The flight crews used infra-red technology to detect temperature differences between the oil and water and did not locate any oil sheen or signs of pollution. Coast Guard overflights will continue to monitor the spill.

“DEQ continues to work within the Unified Command established to address this situation,” said Scott Schaefer, DEQ Incident Management Specialist. “We are working with the American Transmission Company and our federal, tribal and local partners to address the release of mineral oil to the Straits of Mackinac.” 

In consultation with engineers from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, a 10-person work crew and vacuum truck are on site for the OSRO working to draw the oil out of the two decommissioned utility lines; no pressure is being applied to the lines. A suction, or negative pressure, is present on the entire span of the lines across the Straits.

Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here