An oil spill cleanup worker is suing his former employer, S.E.T. Environmental, alleging the company fired him for telling authorities and the media about orders he and others received to cut corners and hide oil that spilled from an Enbridge pipeline into the Kalamazoo River in July 2010.
Whistleblower John Bolenbaugh says he has experienced a backlash after showing the media in 2010 how he and other cleanup workers were ordered to hide much of the oil to meet a deadline.
“You got coordinators telling us to cover up oil,” Mr. Bolenbaugh told Fox17 in 2010. “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 added. He documented parts of the oil spill and cleanup efforts with his Blackberry.
The Kalamazoo River oil spill, considered the largest oil spill ever to occur in the Midwest, released 877,000 gallons of dense and highly toxic bitumen tar sands oil from a ruptured Enbridge pipeline. The sticky oil, laden with chemical additives, flowed into the Talmadge Creek, a Kalamazoo tributary, and surrounding lands.
Enbridge contracted S.E.T. Environmental to clean up the spill. Those efforts are ongoing, years after the spill occurred.
Mr. Bolenbaugh claims that he was fired the day after telling Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authorities and the media about the suspect cleanup efforts. Today, he is suing Enbridge, S.E.T. Environmental, and other contractors on six counts, including two counts of intentionally interfering with his employment, false imprisonment, defamation, emotional distress, and malicious prosecution.
Enbridge strongly denies Mr. Bolenbaugh’s accusations, but the plaintiff says he has documents showing that Enbridge cleanup crews had to re-dredge areas that weren’t properly dredged before, as Mr. Bolebaugh claimed years later – areas that were signed off on by Enbridge and the EPA.
“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,” Mr. Bolenbaugh told Fox17. “It proves that they lied to the public.”