That changed whenan Enbridge pipeline burst, spilling more than 3,000 cubic metres of Canadian oil sands bitumen into the Kalamazoo River in 2010.
In interviews with CBC Radio One's On the Coast and All Points West, former Battle Creek resident, Michelle Barlond-Smith, says she was tipped off by the foul smell of the spill.
"You could smell something," she said, " — combine gasoline, tar, fingernail polish remover and asphalt."
Despite the smell, she thought nothing of it and went to bed. It wasn't until the next day when her neighbour told her what had happened.
After she uploaded photographs of the environmental damage to the web, the Michigan resident received a call from CNN. That put the story in the national spotlight.
"I was in the shower when they called," she said, "They asked me why the spill wasn't in the news."
Barlond-Smith says the Enbridge oil spill has had a deep impact on her life, claiming it forced her to move because of her home's proximity to the river.
She also says the spill led to a number of health problems, including headaches, nosebleeds and skin problems.
She was in Vancouver to participate in Leaked, an Evening of Oil Spill stories from the front lines of Alberta, Michigan and B.C.. The event is at Heritage Hall in Vancouver on Thursday night.