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Enbridge gets an earful over northern Michigan underwater pipeline

Citizens and lawmakers alike worry about the consequences of a rupture for the 64-year-old system.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Enbridge gets an earful over northern Michigan underwater pipeline
Enbridge faces tough questions over the integrity of a 64-year-old oil pipeline system in Michigan's north. (UPI/Shutterstock/tcly)

March 14 (UPI) -- Pipeline company Enbridge faced scrutiny over the integrity of a pipeline system in Michigan, though a director said a Mackinac Straits system was sound.

Enbridge has faced tough questions from residents in the northern part of Michigan's lower peninsula worried about the integrity of Line 5, a twin 64-year-old pipeline system traversing the Straits of Mackinac.

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Last year, State Rep. Candice Miller introduced the Great Lakes Pipeline Safety Act, which would've forced the closure of the company's Line 5 pipeline system. If the pipeline burst, she said more than 700 miles of the shoreline of the Great Lakes could be impacted.

Kurt Baraniecki, a director of integrity programs, told the state Pipeline Safety Advisory Board that internal reviews of the pipeline found few areas of concern despite some sections where an anti-corrosive coating has worn off.

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"I believe this pipeline is in as good of condition as it was on the day it was installed," told The Detroit Free Press.

Two of the state's Great Lakes intersect at the straits, creating a turbulent maritime environment. A Michigan pipeline task force report requires Enbridge to carry full insurance, create a public pipeline safety board and disclose safety reports.

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Enbridge, in an overview of Michigan operations, notes there's never been a leak on the Line 5 system in its 60-year history.

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Baraniecki said a report identifying gaps in the pipeline's coating were incorrect in their classification of a corrosion layer. A vice president in charge of U.S. operations, Brad Shamla, added less than 1 percent of the bare pipeline was exposed.

"There are other things besides corrosion -- even if it is half a percent," pipeline safety board member Chris Kelenske was quoted as saying. "From where I sit, any percent above zero is not good."

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