Tainted turtles still suffering 15 months after river oil spill

The oil spill in Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River may have occurred more than 15 months ago, but it still defines every day for one man and the 30 turtles he’ll care for over the winter.

Enbridge Inc.-contracted scientist Bob Doherty and three part-time helpers are still administering daily care to dozens of turtles that were rescued from the creek and river this spring and summer.

The turtles were too unhealthy to be released in time for winter hibernation, and will have to spend the winter in a small one-room heated facility near Historic Bridge Park in Emmett Township.

Throughout this summer’s oil spill cleanup, turtles with oil on them were still being discovered, said Lisa Williams of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Some were cleaned in the field while others had to be taken into Doherty’s wildlife center for care, Williams said.

In total, Doherty’s team caught 4,200 turtles this year and checked them for oil, he said. Of those, 1,500 were cleaned. Others had damage to their shells from boats. About a dozen were recorded as dead.

“It was a mix this summer of turtles that appeared to have oil that might have been on them since the original incident and some that had gotten into the submerged oil,” Williams said.

As cleanup of last July’s estimated 843,000-gallon oil spill continues, so does the investigation into its effect on turtles, fish and the bugs they eat. State and federal authorities are monitoring Enbridge’s efforts as well as spearheading its own to assure that environmental harm is curbed and monitored.

The turtles are just one piece of the puzzle, which is being examined by a body called the Natural Resource Damages Trustees Council, said Nicole Zacharda, an enforcement specialist for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Water Resources Division.

The trustees council, with members representing state, federal and tribal governments, currently is gathering data from the MDEQ, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Enbridge-hired contractors to evaluate the river’s condition.

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~ by FSVSF Admin on 4 November, 2011.

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