National facility focused on freshwater oil spills to be headquartered in Michigan

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SAULT STE. MARIE, Michigan – Researchers and first responders know how to deal with an oil spill in the ocean, but it’s trickier when it comes to freshwater lakes.

That is, hopefully, about to change with a new center being built right here in Michigan.

“I was very concerned from the start about the potential damage that could occur in the Great Lakes following an oil spill,” said Senator Gary Peters. “Whether it’s from a pipeline that exists in the Great Lakes, or from tankers or any other source of fresh water – if you see a tanker or some other pipeline spilling inland. “

It’s all part of an effort led by Senator Peters and promulgated by President Trump.

The Great Lakes Coast Guard National Center of Expertise (NCOE) will be located at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Married.

The $ 4.5 million initiative will study the impacts of oil spills in freshwater.

Those involved in the project will test response technology, detection systems and train first responders to protect the world’s largest freshwater system.

“Certainly we know firsthand in Michigan how catastrophic an oil spill can be,” said Peters. “We saw it in the Kalamazoo River, which was the most expensive pipeline rupture in our country’s history. It took years to clean up and it was a very complex business.

“We are at the crossroads of three Great Lakes right here in Sault Ste. Marie, ”said Dr. Rodney Hanley, president of Lake Superior State University. “I think we are the only university that can make this claim in the world and here we are. When you think about the level of trade that goes through the Great Lakes, it is essential that we keep our Great Lakes intact and clean.

While the university will be the hub, there will be another NCOE site at the NOAA Research Lab in Ann Arbor.

There is funding to support eight positions in the hope that the center will be operational by next summer.

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