Government, Health Care, and Sustainability

Oil spill leaves no long-term health risk

June 19, 2014
| By AP |
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There's no long-term health risk linked to swimming or fishing in a West Michigan river that was the site of one of the costliest onshore oil spills in U.S. history.

The state Department of Community Health said this month that it finalized its public health assessment of the July 2010 incident. A pipeline operated by Enbridge Inc. ruptured and spewed hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River in Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties.

The state said there's no long-term harm to people's health from coming into contact with chemicals in the river's surface water during wading, swimming or canoeing. But contact with oil sheen in the river may cause temporary effects such as skin irritation.

The state also said oil-related chemicals levels in fish are very low.

The 78-page assessment recommended that people avoid contact with oil sheen if possible. If they do contact the sheen, they should wash their skin with soap and water.

People also were urged to follow fish consumption guidelines posted online.

Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered Enbridge to dredge sections of the Kalamazoo River to remove sediments tainted by oil from the massive spill.

More than 800,000 gallons spewed into the river and a tributary creek after the rupture of an underground pipeline near Marshall in southwestern Michigan. 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.

Enbridge is replacing and enlarging the line, part of a $2.6 billion project to boost the flow of oil to refineries in the eastern U.S. and Canada.

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