State Agencies Call for Immediate Repair of Damage to Coating on Straits Pipeline

Contact: Melody Kindraka, MDEQ Public Information Officer, kindrakam1@michigan.gov, 517-284-6716
Agency: Environmental Quality

August 30, 2017

The Michigan Agency for Energy, Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Michigan State Police expressed concerns today about new information confirming there are gaps in the protective coating on a portion of Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac, at least one of which was apparently caused during the installation of supportive pipe anchors.

In response to the findings, the state called for the immediate inspection of the areas around every anchor on Line 5, a report to the DNR and DEQ of any findings from the inspections, a copy of the video of the recent work performed on the pipeline, and repair within 30 days of any damage to the pipeline’s coating.

“The possibility this loss of coating occurred during the anchor installation process and was not immediately addressed is completely unacceptable," said DEQ Director C. Heidi Grether. "As we continue to review the current permit application to install more anchor supports, I plan to ask Enbridge to provide additional information regarding previous installations, including at a minimum any available video footage of the installation activities. I want a greater assurance that the integrity of all aspects meant to protect the Great Lakes is the company’s utmost priority.”

Said DNR Director Keith Creagh: “This recent finding raises concerns about the actions Enbridge is taking to protect the waters of the Great Lakes. We need to ensure that all appropriate risk mitigation measures have been put in place by Enbridge. Until that happens, we as a state will not be satisfied.”
While there is no indication that the gaps create an immediate concern to the health and safety of the Straits, given that the exterior cathodic protection system is reportedly operational, the results point to larger issues. 

“While the hydrotest results give us confidence that the pipeline is not in imminent danger from these gaps, the fact that human error, not a mussel, created them is something that raises real concern,” said Valerie Brader, Executive Director of the Michigan Agency for Energy.  “Human error was a major factor in Enbridge’s spill into the Kalamazoo River. These coating gaps point to other areas where human error, not the environment, is creating problems.”

“Enbridge should quickly repair the damaged pipeline covering to provide the extra protection,” said Capt. Chris Kelenske, Deputy State Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and commander of the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division. “It is imperative that the company do the right thing for the residents of Michigan and prove they can be good stewards in protecting the natural resource all Michiganians hold dear.”

Line 5 is a 645-mile pipeline built in 1953 and runs from Superior, Wisconsin, to Sarnia, Canada. It transports up to 540,000 barrels a day of light crude oil and natural gas liquids.