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MDCH releases report on drinking water wells after Kalamazoo River oil spill

Aerial photo of Talmadge Creek after Enbridge oil spill
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
The oil spill on Talmadge Creek near the Kalamazoo River on August 1st 2010. More than 800,000 gallons of crude oil spilled out of pipeline operated by Enbridge Energy Partners.

We’re rounding the corner on the three year anniversary of the Enbridge oil spill near Marshall.

The cleanup isn’t over yet and so far, more than a million gallons of thick tar sands oil have been cleaned up from the Kalamazoo River and Talmadge Creek.

State officials have been looking at possible health risks from the spill.

This week, the Michigan Department of Community Health released areport on drinking water wells along the spill zone.

Angela Minicuci is with the MDCH.

“We’ve done a wide variety of testing ranging from when spill began to now and if we’d anticipated any kind of an impact impacting those wells we would’ve seen it by now.”

She says the only oil-related chemicals they found in wells were iron and nickel. The report states that in a few wells, levels of iron and nickel were above health-based screening levels. But Minicuci says those metals are found in the environment naturally.

“We did find some levels of chemicals that were naturally occurring and nothing that was of concern but none of the chemicals that we would’ve expected to find based on the oil spill were found in a level that was going to be of harm to the residents in the area.”

But she notes the testing did find elevated levels of arsenic and lead in some wells. She says those metals are not found in crude oil.  Minicuci says local health departments will work with property owners to address the arsenic and lead.

The well water report focuses only on the findings from tests from the first week of the spill through August 2011. So these data are a year and a half old. Officials say they’re still collecting data and evaluating it.

But some residents say this latest report leaves a lot of questions unanswered. (The National Wildlife Federation has also been critical of a previous health assessment by the MDCH).

Susan Connolly lives in Marshall.

“People that live right on the river still have concerns even though the Department of Community Health indicates it’s all fine and clear they still have concerns long-term not just today but in the future.”

Connolly says she keeps pushing state and federal officials for more information.

“The MDCH is still supposed to be releasing a report related to the air, the air quality and the air testing that was done and to this day, two and a half years later, they have still not released that report.”

MDCH spokeswoman Angela Minicuci says the air quality report will be released at a later date. A report on fish contamination is also in the works.

Marshall residents have been asking for a long-term health study of the effects of the tar sands oil spill. But Minicuci says the MDCH has no plans to do that kind of study.

Rebecca Williams is senior editor in the newsroom, where she edits stories and helps guide news coverage.
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