SAULT STE. MARIE, MI – US Coast Guard crews are responding to an oil spill in a river near the Soo Locks in the Upper Peninsula.
The 5,300-glallon spill originated from Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario around 10:30 am on Thursday. Oil was spilling into the Marys River, officials said.
The 74.5-mile river connects Lake Superior and Lake Huron and serves as a border between Michigan and Ontario, Canada.
Initial Coast Guard estimates show a sheen that covers an area from the steel mill to the north side of Sugar Island. No injuries have been reported and the river has since reopened for commercial traffic, the Coast Guard said.
“We’re working in lock-step with our Canadian, American, and tribal partners to ensure the sanctity of our river,” Captain Anthony Jones, Commander, Sector Sault Ste. Marie said.
Coast Guard pollution responders are monitoring the situation and will coordinate the containment with environmental clean-up organizations.
“A quantity of oil left our site early this morning and entered the adjacent waterway. The source of the spill has been safely contained,” Brenda Stenta, manager of communications and branding for the steel company, said in a statement to CTV.
“The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, the Spills Action Centre, the Canadian Coast Guard, and the City of Sault Ste. Marie have been notified. We are currently coordinating with officials, deploying equipment, resources, and personnel to mitigate any possible impact to the environment.”
Sean McBrearty, campaign coordinator for the nonprofit Oil & Water Don’t Mix, heard about the spill while he was at the Michigan Climate & Clean Energy Summit in Traverse City.
“It’s terrible to see a large oil spill in a waterway so close to the Great Lakes,” McBrearty said, adding his thoughts go out to the first responders and authorities who are working to contain the spill and handle the cleanup. “This is going to be a big blow to the Great Lakes ecosystem, especially up at the St. Marys River.”
And while a 5,000-gallon spill is large, McBrearty said it’s nothing compared to the 23 million gallons of oil that run through Enbridge’s controversial Line 5 pipelines along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac every day. McBrearty’s group is one of several vocal environmental organizations that have been warning of the dangers of a Line 5 spill for years.
“This is just another warning that we have to shut down Line 5 and we have to do it now.”
Anyone with information or reports of oil sheens or oiled wildlife can contact the Coast Guard by calling (906) 635-3233.