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No long-term harm to Kalamazoo River users, Mich. report says

MARSHALL, Mich. – People who canoe on, or wade or swim in, the Kalamazoo River near Marshall are not expected to suffer any long-term harm from chemicals left in the water when an oil pipeline burst in 2010, according to a state report.

Oil-related and non-oil related chemicals were measured in the surface water following the Enbridge Inc. pipeline rupture, which sent 800,000 gallons of oil into the river and a tributary creek.

Only a very few of these chemicals were detected above health-protective screening levels in surface water samples, said the public health assessment released Monday by the Michigan Department of Community Health for portions of the river in Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties.

“People are not expected to be exposed to levels that would cause long-term health concerns,” the report said. “However, if people have contact with these chemicals or the oil sheen and globules in the river, they may develop temporary health effects, such as skin irritation.”

The state assessment also determined that oil-related chemical levels found in fish from the Kalamazoo River and Morrow Lake will not harm people’s health. All oil-related chemical levels were very low, according to the report.

But health officials have issued fish consumption guidelines because of levels of mercury and PCBs found in fish taken from the two bodies of water. Mercury and PCBs are not related to the oil spill.

Oil flowed about 35 miles before it was contained. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board determined the rupture was caused by cracks and corrosion, and the agency faulted Enbridge for failing to take steps that might have prevented it.

The underground pipeline runs from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario. Cleanup efforts from the spill have cost Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge more than $1 billion.

Enbridge already has dredged about 190,000 cubic yards of material and recovered 1.15 million gallons of oil from the river, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA said in March that it had confirmed the presence of submerged oil in three areas and determined it could be removed through dredging.

The EPA has ordered Enbridge to complete additional dredging of the Kalamazoo River by Dec. 31.