FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Chemicals found in Kalamazoo River “rocks” raise health concerns
River still contaminated, report shows
December 16 2013 (Battle Creek, MI) Local residents observed strange “rock” formations in parts of the Kalamazoo River affected when an Enbridge pipeline ruptured in 2010, spilling approximately one million gallons of tar sands oil into the river. Chemical analyses of these “rocks” and water column samples suggest that despite nearly three and a half years of cleanup efforts, the river is still contaminated with chemicals that raise serious human health concerns.
When Craig Ritter found the first “rock” about the size of a pool ball, he remembered thinking, “This is not natural.” The “rocks” crumbled when rubbed together and left an oil sheen on the water surface. Once Ritter found one, he began to see them all over the river bottom. Ritter created a video of the “rock” formations behaving in water that the EPA reviewed, but he did not receive a response from the agency.
Ritter, an engineer and self-described outdoorsman, collaborated with other concerned residents who were impacted by the Enbridge spill to send samples of the “rocks”, water from the Kalamazoo River, and a controlled documented sample from the oil spill, to be analyzed by Analytical Chemistry Testing, Inc. in Mobile, Alabama. The results were reviewed and corroborated by Geolabs Inc. in Massachusetts.
The analyses show that the oil extracted from the Kalamazoo River “rocks” is a fingerprint match for the oil that spilled from the Enbridge pipeline in 2010. Moreover, Robert Naman, the lead chemist on the project, found compounds identical to those found in the Gulf of Mexico when Corexit dispersants were mixed with crude oil in response to the BP Deep Water Horizon spill. But according to the EPA and Michigan state officials, no Corexit dispersants or any other products were used during the Enbridge cleanup.
This has led the team of concerned residents to consider other possible explanations for the presence of Corexit-like compounds in the rock formations. One explanation could be the diluents themselves. The diluents used to thin tar sands for transportation and the dispersants used to break up oil slicks are petroleum distillates – industrial solvents, which share similar chemicals and have similar properties.
According to oil spill expert Dr. Riki Ott, the properties that facilitate the movement of these solvents through oil also make it easier for them to move through skin and into the human body. Ott said, “In effect, solvents act like an oil delivery system into the body. This makes solvent-oil combinations much more toxic than oil alone, as we learned after the BP disaster. With dilbit, the tar sands are already pre-mixed with the solvents.”
Solvents are known to be neurotoxins, mutagens, teratogens, carcinogens, and to cause hemolysis, liver and kidney damage, and autoimmune dysfunction. Indeed, major health problems have been reported by residents in Michigan since the spill.
The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) issued a report six months after the spill that found 61 percent of the residents from the impacted area had reported respiratory problems, headaches, dizziness, nausea and other central nervous system problems, skin lesions and rashes, among other things. These symptoms are known within the medical community to be characteristic of exposure to oil and solvents. However, two years after the Enbridge spill, the MDCH reported there were no long-term health issues.
“If we as common residents can see that major health issues are still a problem, why are the officials ignoring this?” asks Michelle Barlond-Smith, who lived on the Kalamazoo River in Battle Creek at the time of the spill.
Meanwhile, the EPA has ordered Enbridge to finish its cleanup of the Kalamazoo River by Dec. 31st, 2013.
“How could this be?” asks Ritter, knowing the river is far from clean. “The fear is that no one knows the long-term health effects of exposure to tar sands oil. There is no reference book to go to. At this point we really need some answers about why these Corexit-like chemicals are present in the river. Right now it looks like either a dangerous product was used, or we need to start seriously studying the properties of dilbit for their health effects”.
Craig Ritter: 517-230-6394 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Michelle Barlond-Smith: 269-753-2141- email@example.com
Robert Naman, ACT Laboratory, Inc.: 251-454-4582- firstname.lastname@example.org
Riki Ott: 206-853-2855 - email@example.com
For general inquiries about this story, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Press Tele-Conference Wednesday, December 18th, 2013 at 10am EST
Dr. Riki Ott, Craig Ritter, Robert Naman, and Michelle Barlond-Smith will be available to answer questions.
Dial in: +1 661-673-8605
Participant access code: 650881#
Photos available here. Please contact email@example.com for more. Copies of the chemical analyses available upon request.
Video summarizing the discovery of the “rock” formations available here.
Timeline of events leading up to this release, relevant documents, and questions for the media available here.