I visited our contaminated river Thursday evening, and when I arrived at a point further upstream, closer to the source of the spill, the impact of this catastrophe was far more visible.
I was one of many on the 9th St. bridge, just Southeast of downtown Battle Creek, trying to absorb the situation.
And although I think we have the capacity to comprehend something from afar, through pictures and news, it wasn't until I saw firsthand the crude oil, spanning from bank to bank, flowing non-stop downstream, that I began to fully understand the severity of the situation. The first thing that came to mind was, "the river is f - - - ed! It really makes you want to do something.
When you see the thick, black, tarry stuff clinging to vegetation on the banks and all throughout the floodplain, you realize this is not going to just go away, and cleaning it up in it's entirety is impossible, it dawns on you how damaged the river truly is.
And this follows in the wake of the Kalamazoo River's sordid history with the paper mills and PCB contamination. After decades of negotiations, community input, legal wranglings, and various other human obstacles, we finally start making progress in the cleanup of PCBs, only to face another historic environmental catastrophe that once again puts us on the map for all the wrong reasons.
It really hits home when you experience it firsthand. Go see for yourself.
As I was leaving for the night, right around the corner from the bridge was none other than a BP gas station, an uncanny reminder that not only are the spills becoming far to common for comfort, but that we, as consumers and drivers, are the demand in the supply chain of crude that flows through our land and water.