First in a series on John Bolenbaugh, an oil cleanup worker who said he was fired for refusing to cover up oil from a spill that put millions of gallons of tar sands crude into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. Complicating matters is his personality and his own criminal record:

Armed with a digital camera and a machine-gun delivery of baiting, rhetorical questions, usually directed at cleanup workers (‘What do you think of Enbridge covering up oil? Who do you think should pay for killing our fish and poisoning our river?’), Bolenbaugh’s caustic style has made him a divisive figure among locals — a selfless hero to some, a self-aggrandizing crusader to others. Enbridge claims that Bolenbaugh has had no effect on its cleanup efforts, but his picture (square-jawed with wild blue eyes and wearing an orange vest) hung for months inside the security box at the entrance to the Enbridge staging site under the heading: ‘All Personnel Be Alert.’

Even after countless conversations, I sometimes find it hard to tell whether Bolenbaugh is a legitimate whistleblower who refuses to look the other way or, as his critics deride him, a wack-job whose motor-mouth finally got him fired.

“The Whistleblower (Part 1).” — Ted Genoways, OnEarth

See also: “Drilled, Baby, Drilled.” — Alan Prendergast, Westword, Jan. 20, 2012