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Coast Guard will study freshwater oil spill cleanup in Sault Ste. Marie

A new research center in Sault Ste. Marie will study how to clean up oil spills in freshwater environments.

The federal government said this week that it will build a new research facility in Sault Ste. Marie to study how to clean up oil spills in fresh water.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat who sponsored funding for the center, said most research into oil spill cleanup has been done in salt water.

The Coast Guard Center of Expertise will “bring in research scientists that are going to be working on how to effectively clean up oil spills in fresh water -- something we actually know very little about,” said Peters.

The senator said the Line 5 pipeline carrying millions of gallons of oil a day under the Straits of Mackinac makes the new center’s research urgent, but Peter’s said the center would remain important even if the controversial pipeline is shut down.

“This center will be necessary regardless, because we are still moving oil all over the country,” he said. “There are pipelines all across the country. There are rail cars that carry oil all across the country, ships that operate on the Great Lakes -- ships that use oil for their propulsion.”

The Great Lakes hold about 20% of the world’s freshwater supply. Peters said the center’s research could protect that water from contamination.