Inspecting Enbridge’s Underwater Oil Pipe in Lake Michigan
October 10, 2013
This 60 year old line runs through one of the most beautiful areas in the world’s largest body of Fresh water. An underwater inspection, documented above, reveals cause for concern.
An Enbridge pipeline that ruptured near Marshall, Michigan, in July 2010 dumped about one million gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River system. Federal investigators were scathing in their critique, likening Enbridge to the “Keystone Kops” and determining that Enbridge could have prevented the disaster if the company had properly maintained the pipeline and fixed dozens of known defects.
The Enbridge pipelines that cross the Straits of Mackinac have never spilled oil into the conjoined waters of lake Michigan and Huron, according to government officials. But evidence is mounting that there is reason to be concerned.
The Line 5 pipeline that crosses the Straits has a history of problems, just like the company that owns it. Pipelines deteriorate as they age, according to engineering experts, and the Line 5 pipes at the Straits have been subjected to fierce underwater currents, intense external pressure and varying water temperatures for nearly 60 years.
Compounding the threat is the fact that the pipelines cross the world’s largest source of surface freshwater, a sensitive ecosystem that cannot readily cope with large quantities of crude oil.
Additionally, Enbridge has set out to expand its Lakehead System—which includes Line 5—to carry more diluted bitumen and tar sands oil from western Canada. All of the lines within the Lakehead System transport Alberta tar sands-derived crude oil. Most concerning is the transportation of diluted raw tar sands oil or diluted bitumen (DilBit). Transportation of this product requires higher operating pressures, which in turn heats the line and could pose significantly higher risks of spills.