Report: Spill not long-term health threat

Chemicals from oil pipeline in Mich. found at low levels


MARSHALL, Mich. — People who canoe on, or wade or swim in, the Kalamazoo River near Marshall in southwestern Michigan 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 nonoil related chemicals were measured in the surface water following the Enbridge Inc. pipeline rupture that sent 800,000 gallons of oil into the river and a tributary creek.

Few of these chemicals were detected above health-protective screening levels in surface water samples, according to 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 that 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 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 has ordered Enbridge to complete additional dredging of the Kalamazoo River by Dec. 31.