State demands Enbridge fix Mackinac pipe coating gaps

The company that operates twin oil pipelines beneath the waterway linking Lake Huron and Lake Michigan says it has discovered a number of gaps in a protective layer of enamel coating on the pipes.

Oil & Water Don’t Mix called for the State of MI to go beyond calling only for repairs to the enamel, and shut down the aging pipelines due to their unacceptable risk to the Great Lakes.

Enbridge Inc.’s disclosure prompted criticism from Michigan’s governor and other officials about the condition of the pipelines, which traverse the bottomlands of the Straits of Mackinac, a almost 5-mile wide area between the state’s lower and upper peninsulas.

Melody Kindraka of the state Department of Environmental Quality says there’s no immediate threat to the Great Lakes, but it’s concerning that the problem was the result of human error.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is expected to seek the GOP nomination for governor next year, reiterated his earlier call to close the pipeline.

“Protection of Michigan’s natural resources is of utmost importance, and I am greatly concerned by the new information regarding Line 5″. Enbridge did not disclose the size of the second section and said it is still investigating the third possible section where metal might be exposed.

Enbridge’s Line 5 has been the subject of intense scrutiny.

In response to the findings, the state has called for the immediate inspection of areas around every anchor on Line 5.

“This recent finding raises concerns about the actions Enbridge is taking to protect the waters of the Great Lakes”, DNR Director Keith Creagh said in a statement. “We need to ensure that all appropriate risk mitigation measures have been put in place by Enbridge”.

“Enbridge will fix these sections of coating immediately following the completion of all sampling and coating inspections, and after obtaining any necessary permits”, the company said.

“Nearly every detail that comes to light about Line 5 points to decades of negligence on the part of Enbridge Energy, and today’s revelation that enamel coating is wearing off the pipelines simply adds to the long list of unacceptable risks Line 5 poses to MI”, said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of For Love of Water (FLOW). “Human error was a major factor in Enbridge’s spill into the Kalamazoo River”.

The inspection that turned up the coating gaps was part of an Enbridge study to determine whether clumps of mussels or other organisms attached to the lines have done damage.

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