Posted 4 years ago on July 14, 2013, 6:24 p.m. EST by shoozTroll
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Welcome to the wonderful World of spilled bitumin.
Who is Chris Wahmhoff? If you follow the environmental movement, you may already have some idea of who Chris Wahmhoff is. At this time he might be best known as “the guy that rode his skateboard into that Enbridge pipeline in Michigan.” Around Michigan, he’s known for a lot of other things as well, his role in Occupy Kalamazoo, his role in an important protest/action against fracking that took place during an MDNR’s land auction a year ago, his devotion to helping others, his energy and honesty, and of course, his consistency in fighting for economic justice, protesting big banks, helping MI families fight eviction and doing hundreds of other things to educate people, raise awareness and improve the lives of others. I have had the personal good fortune of knowing Chris through his work in the Michigan environmental movement and various other causes that he has thrown his heart and soul into. I also was fortunate enough to be able to interview him immediately following his action against Enbridge, to speak with his girlfriend Lisa Lalegio and to talk with other members of MICATS (Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands) in order to be able to write this piece and those that will accompany it. If you want to understand why Chris Wahmhoff chose to put his life on the line by skateboarding into that pipe, it’s important that you first understand who he is and what he represents.
In July of 2010 the lives of thousands of people who live, work and play in the Marshall, Michigan area were changed forever. As more than a million gallons of tar sands oil, technically known as dilbit or diluted bitumen, poured into the once thriving waterways of the Kalamazoo River, these Michigan residents became the first humans ever, to experience the devastating consequences of a tar sands oil spill of this size and nature. For those who are not aware, dilbit (the technical name for tar sands oil) is not the same type of oil that humans have been spilling and leaking into other areas of the country, like the Gulf of Mexico and along the East coast. It is a thick, dirty oil which cannot flow readily through a traditional pipeline. The toxic chemicals used to dilute the “oil” in order to make it liquid enough to move through the Enbridge pipeline were the first thing released into the air, when the spill first occurred along the Kalamazoo River. Nearby residents almost immediately began to experience a wide range of severe medical conditions, from difficulty breathing to red, angry rashes, many had seizures for the first time in their lives and in some cases, permanent illness and even death occurred. 3 years later, many local residents continue to experience diverse medical symptoms, ranging from mild to severe, especially in areas directly impacted by the spill.
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