LANSING, Mich. - New pictures released from the DEQ show multiple gaps in a protective layer of enamel coating Enbridge's line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.
The pictures come weeks after Enbridge announced it had found a number of gaps in the protective coating on the pipeline, prompting a demand from state officials for a full analysis of how and when they'll fix the problem. Environmentalists with the Department of Environmental Quality believe those gaps are threatening our Great Lakes each and every day.
"Enbridge notified the state at the end of August with some instances they discovered with gaps in coating that goes on the pipeline," said Melody Kindraka, Public Information Officer with the DEQ. "The state responded and we were very concerned."
Pictures taken by Enbridge divers show bare metal in multiple locations along the pipeline. The pictures were delivered to the State of Michigan this weekend after demands from state leaders, including Gov. Rick Snyder, for a closer look. Kindraka says the original report was downplayed.
"We received some information from Enbridge, and were a little dismayed they notified us of three gaps in the coating," said Kindraka. "When we requested more information, it turned out there were actually five."
In total, Enbridge documented seven pipeline 'holidays,' or areas of the pipe missing layers of protective coating under the Straits of Mackinac. The pipeline transports 23 million gallons of crude oil underneath the Great Lakes every day. Despite the company's transparency, the state and the DEQ is worried Enbridge isn't taking the protection of our Great Lakes seriously.
"This is really beginning to call into question for us, their stewardship of the lines, and whether or not they're being completely forthcoming with information and how they're putting things into practice to make sure the lines are protected," Kindraka said.
The DEQ is now requesting Enbridge notify the state with a detailed plan of how they plan on dealing with the repairs. Kindraka says their concerns go deeper than the Straights of Mackinac.
"The whole pipeline is 645 miles long and one of the things we are talking about is not only what's happening under the Straits, but what's happening in other areas of the pipeline?" Kindraka said. "We're certainly looking to get more information about what the quality of the line might be in areas outside of the straits."
In a written statement, Enbridge said there's nothing to worry about:
"As we informed the State of Michigan, Enbridge is expanding and accelerating its coating inspection program to immediately address both the identified coating repairs and the inspection of the coating at all existing support anchor locations.
Enbridge will deploy the resources necessary to immediately begin the repairs and the additional inspections. Repair work should begin as soon as next week and will occur simultaneously with the expanded coating inspections.
Visual inspection by divers, along with cathodic protection readings, and recent 2017 inline inspection data all confirm that there is no corrosion or metal loss at the locations with the coating gaps. Likewise, the high-pressure hydro-test recently successfully conducted by Enbridge on the dual pipelines at the Straits demonstrates that the safety and integrity of the two lines is not in question. Having said this, we are taking immediate action to complete the repairs of the gaps in the coating.
This continued work underscores the effectiveness of Enbridge’s monitoring and maintenance program, which continues to exceed federal standards and reflects Enbridge’s commitment to Michigan and safe pipeline operations. Enbridge is proud that its safety management program worked as intended to identify and address promptly a concern and that the twin pipelines remain in excellent condition," Ryan Duffy, Enbridge Communications Strategist.
Still, environmental leaders are not convinced.
" One of the things the state is questioning is not necessarily the safety of the line, but how Enbridge is operating it and how they’re responding and whether or not they’re taking our issues and the safety of the line seriously," Kindraka said.
In the midst of all of this, Enbridge has submitted an application to install additional anchors in the pipeline, some of which will be near some of the gaps in question. Monday, the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board will be meeting in Lansing to discuss the issues at hand.