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Exposure Oil: Talmadge Creek, Marshall,  Michigan (Enbridge) Study
 
 
 The Battle at Battle Creek
an ongoing fight for the right to public health information and war against corporate accountability
 
by Shannyn R. Snyder, MAIS, WaterHealthEducator.com
 
On June 26, 2010, a pipeline maintained by Enbridge Energy Partners ruptured at the Talmadge Creek, which feeds into the Kalamazoo River, leaked nearly one million gallons of oil, affecting approximately 25 miles of water and shoreline.  Although the immediate response effort by Enbridge has long wrapped, the tangible cleanup efforts and the intangible suffering continues in the Battle Creek and Marshall, Michigan areas.  Two months after the oil leak commenced, I visited the northern U.S. area to talk with both residents and business owners about their experiences with the oil spill, including the economic, social and health effects of the aftermath.  After gathering data and following up with local residents for a year, long after the investigative media had waned (and was, by comparison to Deepwater Horizon, nearly non-existent); this is still very much an existing and ongoing battle between the residents and corporate accountability and, more frightening, between residents and the human right to public health. 
 
The following is an ethnographic view of a vulnerable community in need, one of many across the United States, due to neglect of corporate accountability and social and economic programming shortfall, both of which should not be acceptable in a democracy.  Although participant observation and interview lack the epidemiological data to prove a prevalence of health issues in a community, through this paper, the overall picture of the socioeconomic vulnerability of Middle America should be abundantly clear.
 
 
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The Past, Present, and Future of Battle Creek (2015)

By Jason Zheng

Enbridge was not entirely responsible for the cleanup of Battle Creek or the relocation of citizens because the company’s game plan was to control the amount of information going in and out about the disaster. Another word, the less governmental interference the better. However, Michelle also stated how the community of Battle Creek were lost on handling the situation, so they handed the reins over to Enbridge. Residents of the poor and uneducated (majority of them were ill) signed documents that they were not familiar with, not understanding the future legal consequences. May people that signed, could not even read. As well the state and federal officials failed to serve the people by evacuating them. They even forgot the flow of the river was downward and the residents did not receive help from officials, not until they called for it.  Michelle considers herself and the residents as “lab rats” because there have been a massive hiding of oil and different types of cleanup methods used to see what is effective. Even the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) admit that they has no idea for cleanup. To further continue the investigation, an evaluation of a typical claim policy will be made next.

These claim policies were typically made to favor the company. Michelle gives an example of how the company took advantage of the residents. If you did not sign a wavier, but have been promised something by the company, one would have to file claim forms with lawyers which you are not allowed to have copies of it. However, when the residents follow up with the forms, the company would say that it was “lost”. Michelle personally filed 4 times, and she spoke to different representatives every time. Even their lawyers were tricked by Enbridge. Michelle continues to discuss how flawed the state and federal government are, because they are simply passing policies according to their needs.

The Enbridge disaster did not even fluster the state of Michigan. The state is trying to pass a law that would hide pipelines and large energy projects for security purposes. Michelle states that the disaster makes it easier to get protection laws and for the environment to pass. The Enbridge disaster also turned into a political battleground where as politicians took advantage of the situation of making money. Health policies on the other hand remain unchanged. There was a recent attempt to pass laws for allowing chemical disclosure to doctors, and doctors only. However this law failed, but they are attempting to try again. Ultimately these chemicals are intellectual property rights, there were patent by the company, where they have full authority over it. Intellectual property rights can be further examined by the usage of dispersants in Battle Creek.

Michelle describes the situation where one resident pointed out that there were formation around the water, thus when it was poked, it would dissolve and an oil sheen would pop up. This led to the assumption of dispersant being used. A sample was collected and then analyzed by a scientist from out of state, and it concluded that the chemicals made up the Corexit variants. However, Michelle’s main argument is that whether the chemicals were added after the spill or already in the pipelines before the spill. Michelle strongly favors using natural products to fight spills, however she also states that a natural product can poison you just as a man made one. Thus the next section of this investigation will examine the possibility of using natural dispersants to replaces the current cancer causing ones.

As stated before that dispersants are intellectual rights, patented and filed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. From this investigation, there are two different types of organic dispersants that have been patented. The first is a proteinaceous oil dispersant (EP 688166 A1) and the other is a cactus mucilage (US 20130087507). Another is that is not patented and under research is an oil dispersant with polymers similar to laundry detergents. All of these dispersants will be respectively summarized briefly. 

Proteinaceous oil dispersants have been patented as grain products (e.g. oats) which the lipids are removed through organic extraction. Which this can be further applied to an oil spill, where the composition of the lipids would absorb and emulsify the oil, then disperse it. This patent was filed by NURTURE Inc. in 1994 and invented by Richard Potter.

In 2012 the University of South Florida investigated a non-toxic and organic oil dispersants by using cactus leafs. The idea was derived because of the lethality of the Corexit variants that were used in the Deepwater Horizon and the 1989 Exxon Valdez spills. This investigation sought out to disperse and absorb oil from a simulated oil slick in different salt concentration. Mucilage powder from cactus was added to the oil to disperse the oil film and then it absorbed the oil while remaining afloat—this shows that that cactus mucilage is indeed an environmentally friendly of removing oil.  The inventors are—Norma A. Alcantar, Dawn I. Fox, and Sylvia Thomas

During a conference on August 20, 2012, the American Chemical Society introduced a new type of oil dispersant. It is hard to imagine an oil spill dispersant made from ingredients in peanut butter, chocolate, whipped cream, however this is what Lisa K. Kemp, Ph.D., Robert Lochhead, Ph.D., and their team from The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg has sought to investigate.  Their main focus on developing a dispersant that has a similar polymer to detergents and a similar effect when we wash our clothes. If we apply this application on birds that have been drench with oil, as soon as the bird takes off and flaps its wings, “the oil will fall off”. However, in order to advertise this dispersant the team will have to seek necessary partners (some current ones—The Dow Chemical Company, Archer Daniels Midland Company and Croda International) and consumers that can test their product.

We still have to keep in mind that these patent are intellectual property, but it is a positive outlook that these patents describe the different types of ingredients and chemical substances that are within the components. However, it is not also wrong to say that companies should hide these ingredients from consumers that uses them, because they came up with the idea with different partners, which cannot fully generate an unanimous decision. 

 
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