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Great Lakes Article:

Officials narrow search for suspects in oil spill


By Delores Patterson / The Detroit News
5/11/2002

   DETROIT -- Investigators are edging closer to discovering the source of a massive spill on the Rouge and Detroit rivers after locating a second sewer line with traces of oil.
   Samples from a Detroit location have been sent to a lab in search of chemical fingerprints to determine if the oily mixture matches the industrial-grade oil discharged into the Rouge River on April 9, said Lt. Cmdr. Brian Hall, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman.
   Contaminants were taken from the sewer on Ford Road last week. "There shouldn't be oil in the sewer," Hall said.
   The first remnants of oil were found in a large storm sewer three weeks ago in Dearborn on Wyoming near Michigan Avenue. Investigators are analyzing approximately 2,000 gallons of oil pumped from the site.
   Whether the oil dumping was done deliberately or accidental remains unclear.
   "We can't say anything conclusive concerning some of our findings yet," Hall said. "But we haven't been able to tie the spill to a specific facility."
   Authorities have taken oil samples from local industry in the effort to find the oil's origin. They already have ruled out vessels on the river as a possible source.
   Hall said there are hundreds of miles of combined sewer and pipe systems to comb through so it could take another month to find the culprit. In the meantime, investigators are literally overturning every manhole from Detroit to Dearborn in search of more evidence, he said.
   "It would be nice if they found out who did this like yesterday," said Doug Walker of Dearborn. "There is no telling how much our wildlife will be affected in the long run."
   Up to 45,000 gallons of oil have been recovered from the rivers, according to Hall, with cleanup efforts costing about $3 million.
   The oil dumper could end up paying for cleaning and fines of up to $25,000 a day.
   But a federal bill introduced by U.S. Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Dearborn, to prevent future spills may double fines if the "Polluter Accountability Act" is passed by Congress.
   While the community waits for someone to be brought to justice, Hall hopes residents can take some solace in knowing that the bulk of oil has been removed, leaving only minor shoreline cleaning.
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