By Joanna M. Foster on December 3, 2013 at 3:56 pm
When tar sands crude spills into water, it doesn’t float on top in an oily sheen for all to see. It sinks to the bottom, mixes with sediment, and creates a toxic, viscous muck that is almost impossible to remove completely.
That is exactly what happened three years ago in the Kalamazoo River in Southwest Michigan, and that is exactly what critics of plans to ship tar sands crude by barge across the Great Lakes say will happen again if industry is given the green light.
According to a new report released by the Alliance for the Great Lakes, Calumet Specialty Products Partners, L.P. is preparing to begin shipping tar sands crude by barge on the Great Lakes as early as 2015. Calumet and its dock partner, Elkhorn Industries, recently applied for several permits from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Plans include a $25 million loading dock on Lake Superior, and the heavy crude would most likely travel from Wisconsin across Lake Superior to Lake Michigan. From there the barges would continue on to refineries in Whiting, Indiana, Lemont, Illinois, and Detroit, Michigan, as well as other destinations along the St. Lawrence Seaway. There is simply more tar sands crude being extracted from Alberta, Canada than can currently be transported to market via existing channels.
The Great Lakes supplies drinking water for over 40 million people in North America and is the largest surface freshwater resource in the world.