Michigan oil spill effects could be repeated here

A spill will hurt your business base. Companies will have to relocate or close.

Dear Sir:

Re: “Cleanup went well, says Terrace official,” The Terrace Standard, May 15, 2013

I was impacted by Enbridge’s 1.1 million gallon tarsands oil spill into the Kalamazoo River in 2010. I do not like to use the word victim…I am a survivor.

This disaster caused the disruption of not only people like myself who lived along the 40-mile stretch of the river, but of our communities, our wildlife, our way of life, our health. Given Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway project through northwest BC, I want you to learn from our experience about what an oil spill will do.

A spill will hurt your business base. Companies will have to relocate or close. As they leave, your tax base will disappear. Your communities will lose tourism and future business as people and corporations tend to shy away from contaminated areas. We have farmers who have lost two years’ worth of crop, not to mention lost livestock.

There are health issues that we did not have two and a half years ago, along with an increase in psychological stress and care of post-traumatic stress that a technological spill brings.

A spill emphasizes the disparity in communities: many of the richer residents who could afford lawyers were paid off or bought out, and the most defenseless were left with no legal resources or compensation.

A spill violates worker safety: safety measures were not taken that should have been. Workers were told if they used masks they would be fired. Illegal workers were brought in, paid less, fed and housed differently than union workers. We saw workers not given proper gloves, boots, or Tyvec suits.

I have watched as Enbridge has pitted neighbours against neighbours, given community organizations what many residents call hush money, harassed and threatened people who dare to stand up and say “no, that is not right,” or who have photographed or videotaped the spill and so called clean-up. I have talked to reporters whose jobs have been threatened or the companies they work for threatened with lawsuits.

I do not wish what happened in my community to happen in yours.

Michelle Barlond-Smith,

Battle Creek, Michigan