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Enbridge pipeline spill made hundreds sick: report

Oil sands crude gushing from Enbridge’s ruptured Michigan pipeline this summer made hundreds of people sick, a new report reveals.

“Headache, nausea, and respiratory symptoms were the predominant symptoms reported by exposed individuals in all reporting systems,” reads the Michigan Department of Community Health analysis.

“These symptoms are consistent with the published literature regarding potential health effects associated with acute exposure to crude oil.”

Calgary-based pipeline firm Enbridge reported a major pipeline leak late this July. More than three million litres of crude from Alberta’s oil sands spilled into a creek feeding the Kalamazoo River.

The crude was bound for refineries in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Ontario.

By early September, 145 people had visited area health providers for a wide variety of symptoms related to oil exposure. Nearly 81 percent lived or worked near the polluted waterways.

The severity of about 65 percent of the visits was classified as “moderate”, according to the health report.

A further 320 people reported feeling ill during four community surveys, it said.

Dangerously high levels of air-borne benzene released during the spill could be the cause, recent media reporting suggests.

Enbridge proposes to build a pipeline connecting Alberta's oil sands to B.C.'s west coast and then shipping crude on supertankers to Asian markets. (Click here to read a Tyee dispatch from a tiny First Nations fishing village along the proposed route).

Federal Liberal, New Democratic Party and Bloc Quebecois MPs passed a non-binding resolution supporting a ban on west coast tanker traffic last week.

It came days after 61 B.C. interior First Nations groups announced their opposition to Enbridge's pipeline plans.

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee

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