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Study: No Long-Term Health Effects Of Kalamazoo River Spill

MARSHALL (AP) - There are no long-term health effects of submerged oil from last year's spill in southern Michigan's Kalamazoo River, a new study from the state says.

Results of the Michigan Department of Community Health toxicology study were released Wednesday evening at a community meeting in Marshall to discuss the progress of a cleanup related to the spill, the Battle Creek Enquirer and the Kalamazoo Gazette reported.

"Contact with chemicals in the submerged oil will not cause long-term health effects or cause a larger-than-normal risk of cancer," said Paul Makoski, environmental health manager for the Calhoun County Public Health Department.

Still, he said, officials are being cautious. Contact with the oil in the riverbed, the floodplains or riverbanks could cause short-term health effects such as skin irritation. On Thursday, the MDCH noted that its assessment only dealt with submerged oil.

"It does not evaluate breathing in chemicals from the remaining oil or any public safety concerns posed by the ongoing cleanup of oil in the river," the MDCH said in a statement.

Phyllis Nelson, who lives near the river at Baker Estates Mobile Home Park in Battle Creek, left the meeting in tears. She said she has developed sores on her arm, which she never had before the spill, and said her lung problems have worsened since the spill.

"Swim in the water and say it's safe," she said.

The meeting, which drew about 130 people, was hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"We've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go," said Susan Hedman, a regional administrator with the EPA.

She said she discussed the spill with President Barack Obama during a recent trip to Washington, D.C.

"He continues to be very concerned about this spill," Hedman said.

Hundreds of people continue to work on cleanup-related efforts. Officials said closed portions of the river could be reopened later this year or in 2012. The spill, which was reported July 26, 2010, contaminated parts of Fredonia Township, the Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

Submerged oil is the largest remaining cleanup challenge from Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge Inc.'s pipeline that spilled more than 800,000 gallons of oil. The spill occurred from a portion of an Enbridge pipeline running from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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