Enbridge Whistleblower Claims Cover-Up; Company Denies Wrongdoing

CALHOUN COUNTY, Mich. (May 5, 2014) — What’s considered the largest oil spill in Midwest history set John Bolenbaugh on a mission. I met him in late 2010 in Calhoun County.

“It just ain’t right. Someone’s got to protect this area, and if Enbridge want to say it’s done, I’m going to prove them wrong,” Bolenbaugh said as we walked through the woods.

Bolenbaugh worked for an Enbridge subcontractor, S.E.T. Environmental, which was hired to clean up the spill.

He used his Blackberry to document what appeared to be oil on land and in water. He took me to an area along the Kalamazoo River where he said he and fellow workers were instructed by an Enbridge contractor to take short cuts.

“You got coordinators telling us to cover up oil. You have other people from other crews telling us that the coordinator from their crew told them to cover up oil. Put dirt over the top of it,” he said.

Enbridge strongly denies Bolenbaugh’s claim.

“It’s patently false. Enbridge hasn’t hidden oil or attempted to hide oil. All of the work has been done under the direction of the regulatory agencies,” Lorraine Little, Enbridge spokesperson said.

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality,” Little said.

She said his claims “couldn’t be further from the truth.”

In a deposition, a foreman for S.E.T. testified that he heard a manager instruct crews to spread oil in the woods. Bolenbaugh said he was told via text message that crews had a clean-up deadline to meet.  Bolenbaugh said he informed Enbridge that he contacted the EPA and the media about what he knew.

“The next morning, I was fired. You see where the oil stays and the dirt doesn’t, that’s how you tell this is oil,” he pointed out.

After we left the property in November 2010, we were greeted by Emmet Township Police and a man Bolenbaugh identifies as an Enbridge contractor who claimed a ‘state order’ gave Enbridge authority to keep us off the land. That’s something Bolenbaugh said is simply not true.

“I’m a whistleblower,” Bolenbaugh said.

Today, the self-described “union worker turned whistleblower” is still on his mission. He’s fighting the oil company in court over issues surrounding the alleged cover-up.

Little said, “At no point would Enbridge have instructed our contractor to act adversely to the directive that we’ve been given by our regulators.”

FOX 17 wanted to know if it’s an issue Enbridge fleshed out with the contractor.

Little replied, “I’m not sure if I know the day-to-day workings of the crews and what they were thinking or doing.”

“I think that’s a pretty ‘in the weeds’ type of a question. So, as far as what goes on in the field day-to-day. Ya know, our, there’s a work plan that’s approved by the EPA and the DEQ,” she added.

Bolenbaugh’s suing Enbridge and its subcontractors on six counts, including:

- Intentionally interfering with his employment (2 separate counts)
– False imprisonment.
– Defamation
– Emotional distress
– Malicious prosecution

Little said the company cannot comment on pending litigation.

While Enbridge said the allegations regarding a cover-up are untrue, Bolenbaugh’s attorney said his client was on a truth-seeking mission as he tried to expose unfinished work that had been signed off on by Enbridge and the EPA.

Bolenbaugh held a documents, “This is at Ceresco Dam, Morrow Lake, several areas, now they had to re-dredge these areas for this oil that they left behind that they didn’t dredge properly or they didn’t clean properly.”

He added, “I was a witness to all this, but these documents that we didn’t have when I actually blew the whistle are very vital to our lawsuit against Enbridge. It proves that they lied to the public.”

The company said it has more re-dredging to do in Morrow Lake and the Delta but should be done this year, and the river will be open to full use.
A company rep said the state will provide long-term monitoring.

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6 comments

  • Carl

    This guy is a real piece of work. I know him through a friend and it’s been clear from the beginning that he’s on a payday-seeking mission, there’s nothing “truth-seeking” about it. But, considering the way our system works, he’ll probably get what he’s looking for; something for nothing. America!

    • Courtney

      Carl, A payday seeking mission. Are you joking. He lost a $4,000 a week job because he told the truth. He lost a career in the pipeline industry working with his dad, brother, 5 brother in laws, cousins, nephews and many more making up to $200,000 a year. Now he is being blackballed by the industry. John spent $35,000 of his own money from his personal savings to expose and document the cover up and the hundreds of sick people in the community. And John has spent over 8,000 hours of his time in the last 4 years for FREE. 60 to 80 a week to help his community. Carl why you sit on your ass and do nothing and talk the talk. John Bolenabugh is the only one walking the walk. With slashed tires, cut breaks, assaults and death threats on him, and he still hasn't quit. John will never get 10% of the money back he has loss from losing his career. So what you are saying Carl is just a plain lie!!! You must be friends with an Enbridge worker or your just blind and dumb. Which is it?? Oh and P.S. why did Enbridge and EPA say it was 100% clean and when John turned them in they spent over $200,000, 000 to re-clean up the same areas. And what about the tumors and oil in the fish that Enbridge and the EPA said your kids can eat. Is that fake to. Or is John Right again by saying the river is not safe to swim in and the fish are not safe to eat. People like you CARL are a piece of work. That doesnt ever work to help anyone but themselves.

  • John supporter

    I agree with Courtney, Mr. Bolenbaogh is the only one that has stepped up and risked everything for our community. Watch his 150 you tube videos. A kindergartner can see the truth about the Enbridge cover up. Shame on you Carl. Another attacker helping ENBRIDGE cover up the truth. I have several friends that are home owners and they say that Enbridge covered up oil on there property and John is the reason it was cleaned back up. Are the land owners lying to Carl???

  • B. C. resident

    my kids were eating those fish that Enbridge said were safe to eat until John told us and showed us the oil that was in them. John is a hero. An AMERICAN HERO. Enbridge deserves to pay john tens of millions. Enbridge knew the pipe was bad for 5 years and didnt fix it because it is cheaper to let it break and let the insurance company pay for the clean up rather than shut down a $10,000,000 a day pipeline and fix it. The deserve everything John dishes out to them.

  • Zach

    I agree with carl..he I worked on this oil spill..the whole time..we were never asked to cover oil..john is just out to get publicity.. It cuz of him we had to stop work for an hour everyday..and if he is a die hard union worker like my self then why did he work for set which is NON Union..he cut his own break lines and slashed his own tires..I hope no one believes him he is just out to get rich..I’ll go to bat for enbridge any day they didn’t have to hire locals but they did so a lot of people could have a job

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