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Environment & Climate Change

Report: No contamination found in well water in Kalamazoo River oil spill zone

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(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)
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Oil spill clean up work along the Kalamazoo River, near Battle Creek, July, 2010

Tests suggest household wells near the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill have not been contaminated.

A pipeline break in July, 2010, resulted in more than 800 thousand gallons of crude oil leaking into the Kalamazoo River.   The cleanup of the river and the surrounding area continues.

Health officials have spent the past few years testing 150 wells in the spill zone.

Jennifer Gray is a state toxicologist. She says a draft report released this week by the Department of Community Health shows no organic oil-related chemicals have turned up in any of the water wells.

But she says a few wells have tested positive for iron and nickel.  Both are present in crude oil.

“It should also be noted that iron and nickel are naturally occurring and have been previously been found in wells from Kalamazoo and Calhoun counties,” says Gray.

Gray says some wells also had high levels of arsenic and lead. But those elements were not present in the crude oil.

“Its important to note that arsenic is naturally occurring in Michigan. And Lead could be coming from plumbing sources,” says Gray.

Gray says groundwater tends to flow toward the Kalamazoo River in the spill zone, which lessens the chance chemicals from the spill will leach into local well water.

Still, she says groundwater testing will continue for years to come.

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