Chippewa River oil spill heading
By Jeremiah Stettler
Bay City Times
State officials are keeping a close eye on an oil spill
spotted on the Chippewa River, and are keeping their fingers
crossed it does not drift downstream to the Tittabawassee
As of late Monday, emergency crews hadn't stopped the
"Because of the high river flow, it may not be possible
to contain it before it reaches the Tittabawassee River,"
said Patricia Spitzley, spokeswoman for the Department
of Environmental Quality.
The Chippewa meets the Tittabawassee in Midland, and
the Tittabawassee flows into the Saginaw River, which
empties into the Saginaw Bay.
Spitzley said the spill presumably is linked to Central
Asphalt Inc. in Mount Pleasant, where an oil-water separator
may have overflowed because of rapid snowmelt. She could
not say how much oil escaped.
Spitzley said state Department of Natural Resources officials
do not see the spill as an immediate threat to Chippewa
Central Asphalt officials neither confirmed nor denied
that they are to blame for the spill, but said they are
actively involved in the cleanup.
The oil spill was spotted around 10 a.m. Monday floating
in the Chippewa River near Mount Pleasant.
Crews trained to handle hazardous materials tried to
contain the slick by spanning the river with inflatable
booms, used to corral the floating contaminant. Fast-moving
water, however, prevented that method from working, Spitzley
said, leaving the oil adrift.
"It appears to be progressing toward the Midland
County line," she said.
Roger Garner, director of emergency services for Midland
County, is taking a wait-and-see position. He drove along
the ice-plated river Monday afternoon, but said the oil
hasn't reached his community yet.
Then again, he doesn't expect it to.
"We've discussed the possibility of trying to catch
any oil that is still in the river," he said. "But
we really haven't made a determination yet. We're not
anticipating much of a problem here."
If the spill continues to drift downstream, it would
empty into the Tittabawassee River at the Midland Tridge.
The spill then could flow southeast into Saginaw County.
State officials confirmed that the oil will not affect
drinking water supplies in either Mount Pleasant or Midland.
Mount Pleasant collects its water upstream from the spill
while Midland shares a Lake Huron pipeline with the city
The Department of Environmental Quality and local hazardous
materials personnel are working with two private companies
to scrub the river clean, Mount Pleasant Police reported
Monday. State officials also are awaiting sampling results
from the river.