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.
– 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.