March 2012 - When a 30-inch pipeline ruptured in Marshall, Michigan, causing a million gallons of oil to flood into the Kalamazoo River and raising fears of a major environmental disaster, it was CCO-certified riggers and signalpersons from International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 324 who came to the rescue.
The environmental sensitivity and remote location of the spill demanded helicopters to lift in equipment and lift out the contaminated soil. The complex helicopter lifts meant that certified riggers and signalpersons were needed. Because IUOE Local 324 requires its first-year crane apprentices to earn their CCO Rigger and Signalperson certifications, they were ready to help.
Within 24 hours, IUOE Local 324’s Journeyman & Apprentice Training Fund (JATF) sprang into action, securing work for Local 324 members who assisted with lifting excavators, contaminated soil supersacks, hazmat machines, skid steers, and whatever else was needed to complete the cleanup project successfully. Over the first two weeks after the spill approximately 790 bags of contaminated soil were lifted out and disposed of.
The owners of the pipeline, Enbridge Partners LLP, were reportedly so delighted with the response and impressed by the JATF training center that they later hired more Local 324 members for work on pipeline construction.
At the height of the response activities, more than 2,500 EPA, state, local, and Enbridge personnel and contractors worked along 35 miles of impacted river and shoreline. More than 1,139,000 gallons of oil are estimated to have been contained in the contaminated waste streams generated by cleanup work.