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article imageProtesters demand Enbridge's 64-year-old pipeline 5 be shut down

By Karen Graham     Mar 14, 2017 in Environment
Enbridge Energy Partners officials faced a rowdy crowd at the Michigan pipeline safety advisory board meeting on Monday, as they tried to defend their 64-year-old Line 5 pipeline running under the Straits of Mackinac.
Enbridge Line 5 is a major oil pipeline in the Enbridge Lakehead System, which conveys petroleum from western Canada to eastern Canada via the Great Lakes states. It is most notable for passing under the environmentally sensitive Straits of Mackinac connecting Lake Michigan to Lake Huron.
Construction of the pipeline was completed in 1953, and today, after an upgrade in 2013, carries about 23 million gallons of crude oil and liquid natural gas each day. The 645-mile, 30-inch-diameter pipeline runs from Superior, Wisconsin, across Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas before reaching a terminal in Ontario, Canada.
Of particular concern is the fact that as the pipeline travels under the Straits of Mackinac, it splits into two 20-inch-diameter pipes, running parallel to each other. The two pipes reunite when the reach the southern side of the straits. The lines descend to a depth of approximately 82 meters (270 feet) under the straits.
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Garret M. Ellison
Protesters demand the pipeline be shut down
Protesters at the Monday night meeting had good reason to be worried over Enbridge Line 5, so much so that one grandfather and his eight-year-old grandson came into the meeting hall wearing a coating of oil, reported WILX10.com.
"My Indian name is 'Pagizzo' and it means the one who is swimming so that makes the water and the fish my friends," explained Riley to the crowd, standing next to his proud grandfather.
"They say a picture's worth a thousand words," explained Fred Harrington, Riley's grandfather. "It's really difficult to think into the future and see what our wildlife will look like if that pipeline breaks. I can only imagine that our fish will look like this," as he gestures to his grandson and himself. "They'll be dying, laying up on the beach."
In a brochure issued by Enbridge detailing the Line 5 pipeline  they say:  The twin pipelines under ...
In a brochure issued by Enbridge detailing the Line 5 pipeline, they say: "The twin pipelines under the Straits have not experienced any leaks in six decades of operation—a testament to their design, construction, and maintenance regimen."
Enbridge
Environmentalists and protesters alike showed up in force at the meeting, wanting to know more about an alleged report Enbridge filed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in September 2016 that identified 19 "holidays" on Line 5—an oil and gas industry term that refers to areas on a pipeline where anti-corrosive coating is missing.
It seems that Michigan pipeline safety advisory Board member, Jennifer McKay, who is a policy specialist with the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, stumbled across the EPA report while looking for something else on the Enbridge website, according to Michigan Live.
Valerie Brader, Michigan Agency for Energy director and pipeline board co-chair, called the information "concerning" and "something we want more information on." Maps and diagrams on the website clearly identify the 19 "holiday" locations, 12 on the pipeline's east line and seven on its west line.
Enbridge's answer to the holiday concerns is concerning in itself
Enbridge spokesman and the company's integrity programs director, Kurt Beraniecki was the first to speak at the meeting, and right off, he said the report used "imprecise language." What the company report was referring to was "areas where the outer, glass-fiber coating has come off, that doesn't provide corrosion protection," he said.
Enbridge Line 5 right-of-way near Michigan s Straits of Mackinac
Enbridge Line 5 right-of-way near Michigan's Straits of Mackinac
Enbridge
"The consultants had generalized this," Baraniecki said. "These were locations we have identified that could potentially have coating holidays." The answer was met with a lot of hoots and laughter by the crowd, and perhaps a bit of confusion?
"Enbridge began by saying Line 5 is as good as the day it was constructed 64 years ago. Then they went on to admit the protective coatings are peeling off while saying it really doesn't matter," David Holtz, executive committee chair of the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club, told EcoWatch.
Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline problem isn't settled yet, though. The Pipeline Safety Advisory Board has commissioned two independent contractors to assess worst-case scenarios from a Straits of Mackinac pipeline leak and to submit an accompanying analysis of safer alternatives to transporting oil and gas around the Great Lakes. The reports are expected by June 2017.
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