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2011 health issues continue from the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill

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On July 26, 2010, when approximately 840,000 gallons of oil from Enbridge Oil pipelines spilled into the Talmadge Creek tributary of the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Michigan, the big oil conglomerate started scrambling to cover liability.

Health issues from oil spill still loom over Michigan's Kalamazoo River community. In spite of reports from Enbridge that clean up was being done according to EPA guidelines and that the danger was minimal, and that the river downstream from Morrow Dam would not suffer, 2011 has arrived with disappointment. Delay, and evidence that wildlife, human consumption of fish and fowl and other toxic consequences are making the trip down the river toward Lake Michigan.

Reports on health issues were minimized.

At first, Enbridge Oil representatives responded with denials that the product spilling from the pipe was a dangerous tar sand oil product and other misnomers. Eventually, the truth had to be admitted. The company bought up homes nearest the spill and along the highest area of damage, and tried to buy rights of usage to property at cheap prices.

Still, every report in 2010 downsized danger to wildlife and residents, leaving those concerned with feelings that the spill would be cleaned up by Spring 2011. Residents are still waiting in this summer of 2011.

Tar sand oil was found on the bottom of the Kalamazoo River.

According to the NRDC, Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental websites, tar sand oil is not a natural form of petroleum, but is a product of mining a combination of clay, sand, water and the oil component called “bitumen”.

The derivative product has a highly corrosive nature and over time, exporting this oil through large underground pipelines will increase the chance of spilling into our water systems. According to Center for Energy Matters, tar sands oil produces five to ten times more corroding sulfur and salt chloride than conventional oil petroleum. The pipeline winding underground through Michigan is 50 years old.

Once tar sand oil has settled in a waterway bed, it has to be stirred up, brought to the surface and dredged off from the top. The fish in the Kalamazoo River are now experiencing vacuum machines and chains dragging the tar sand sludge from the bottom of the river instead of biting on worm filled hooks. The heavy sludge is difficult to clean up.

Dangers from tar sand oil will exist for years.

“Bitumen contains significantly more heavy metals than conventional crudes and does not biodegrade.” states Anthony Switt, of the NRDC in the Switchboard, July 26, 2011.

Henry Henderson of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) at Switchboard, wrote that when the spill first occurred, residents and others closest to the spill had to be evacuated due to the light natural gas that evaporated leaving toxic fumes endangering all wildlife and persons in the area.

There are lasting effects to wildlife areas, farms, home properties and businesses from the heavy metal contamination of mercury and nickel, not to mention gases such as enzine, xylene and toluen being emitted into the air. Cancerous and lung disease, such as COPD will increase and existing problems have already been heightened.

To be involved, keep in touch with and support legislation to hold big pipeline oil companies accountable and to tighten laws and regulations on pipeline safety. Contact Representative Fred Upton, Michigan U.S. representative about his involvement in new oil pipeline laws.

References

Kalamazoo one year later: Anatomy of a tar sands spill, by Anthony Switt NRDC

Pipeline Problems The mess remains one year after Kalamazoo oil spill by Henry Henderson NRDC

Center for Energy Matters Tar Sands Josh Mogerman NRDC

EIS Information Center Oil Shale and Tar Sands Programmatic About Tar Sands Bureau of Land Management

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