October 24, 2012 - The Oxford Fire Department got a financial shot-in-the-arm Monday from Enbridge, Inc. as the Canadian energy distribution company awarded it a $1,000 grant.
Oxford Fire Capt. Ron Jahlas (left) receives a $1,000 check from Enbridge representative Donavon Grimes. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
According to Fire Capt. Ron Jahlas, who applied for the grant about two months ago, the money will be used to purchase two combustible gas detection meters, two pairs of high-powered binoculars and two bags for carrying equipment.
The funds are being disbursed as part of Enbridge's Safe Community Program. Initiated in September 2002, the program has provided approximately 350 grants to emergency first-responders.
Qualifying organizations include fire, police and sheriff's departments as well as emergency medical services. The agencies must be located in communities that host Enbridge operations.
Enbridge has a large-diameter interstate crude oil pipeline that runs through the northern end of Oxford Township. The company is awaiting approval from the state to begin doing replacement work on this line.
The meters Oxford plans to buy will be able to identify the presence a number of combustible gases, such as natural gas, and measure their concentration in the atmosphere.
"We're looking at a couple different models (that can detect and identify) between 16 and 32 gases," Jahlas said. "We'll probably go with the 16 because of the amount of funding that we have."
Jahlas explained the meters currently used by the department can only detect the presence of a gas in the air; they cannot identify the specific type. They also only indicate whether the concentration is a high or low level; they don't provide an exact measurement.
"They're basically advanced carbon monoxide detectors," the captain said.
Jahlas indicated the binoculars are needed for dangerous situations such as spills involving hazardous materials.
"This will allow us to see and identify from a distance what kind of danger we're dealing with before we approach it," he said.
The Enbridge oil pipeline that runs through Oxford is designated as Line 6B. It crosses southeastern Michigan and ends in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. It serves refineries in Michigan, Ohio and eastern Canada.
Enbridge plans to replace approximately 50 miles of Line 6B with new 30-inch diameter pipeline from Ortonville to the St. Clair River in Marysville with Oxford's approximately 6.5 miles of pipe in between. This is part of a much larger project that spans 210 miles across Michigan and Indiana.
Exactly when Enbridge's work will begin in Oxford has not yet been determined, according to Jason Manshum, a company spokesman. The application for the project involving Oxford is currently awaiting approval from the Michigan Public Service Commission, a regulatory body in Lansing.
"If we get approval over the winter, say the first of the year, then construction could begin in the spring," Manshum said. "But when exactly it would hit Oxford, I couldn't tell you. I won't know until the application gets approved. Just because we start (this project) in the spring, doesn't necessarily mean it's in Oxford. It's a little early to gauge that."
For more information about Enbridge's Line 6B along with its maintenance and rehabilitation program for the pipeline, please visit www.enbridgeus.com/line6bprojects
Given Enbridge's work has the potential to create a hazardous situation, Jahlas said it's only natural for the company to help pay for the equipment that's "necessary for us to monitor it and fix it."
"Obviously, it's in their best interest, and in our best interest, to be properly equipped in case there is a release of material or a problem," the captain noted.
In July 2010, Enbridge was responsible for an oil spill that resulted from a pipeline rupture near Marshall, Michigan. The oil spilled into a creek connected to the Kalamazoo River. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the spill prompted the costliest onshore cleanup in U.S. history at more than $800 million. It was widely considered one of the worst oil spills ever in the Midwest.
When it comes to grants, the Oxford Fire Dept. is on a roll. Last year, Oxford, along with Brandon and Addison's fire departments, received a $225,359 federal grant to upgrade communications systems. Oxford also received $61,297 federal funds to replace 15 sets of firefighter turnout gear.
Grants like these equip the department "with the tools and resources that are necessary to properly do our job and keep the public safe," Jahlas said. "It also allows us to obtain the equipment that we need without asking the taxpayers to fund it."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.