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State says it’s okay to eat fish from stretch of Kalamazoo River affected by oil spill

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It’s another sign things are starting to get back to normal… two years after the spill. Earlier this month the state opened up the river to swimmers and boaters for the first time since the spill.

The Michigan Department of Community Health says it’s now safe to eat fish from a thirty-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River affected by a massive oil spill.

The state issued the ‘do not eat fish’ advisory after more than 800,000 gallons of heavy crude (tar sands) oil seeped from an underground pipeline into the Kalamazoo River near Marshall. The cause of the spill is yet to be determined. Rebecca Williams just did a great update on that and other pipeline issue on Thursday's The Environment Report.

Michigan’s Department of Community Health tested fish in the fall of 2010 and last summer. And based on those tests, the state announced Thursday that it’s okay to eat fish from the river.

A department spokesperson outlined a few more details in an email:

The two metals tested, nickel and vanadium, were not detected in the fish filets and only low levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were found in fish from both an upstream location (not impacted by the oil spill) and the downstream locations (in the oil spill area). Mercury and PCBs are still the drivers for the fish eating guidelines. The fish eating guidelines for the Kalamazoo River reverted back to the pre-spill guidelines. Based on the data available, the levels of mercury and PCBs in the fish filets are similar to the levels that were present before the spill.

The state recommends fishermen follow state guidelines for fish consumption. The guidelines already warn people against eating carp, catfish, northern pike, and small and largemouth bass in that section of the Kalamazoo River.


Lindsey Smith is Michigan Radio’s investigative reporter. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor and West Michigan Reporter.
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