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Michigan agencies concerned by gaps in Great Lakes oil pipeline coating

Pipeline operator Enbridge said it would address the issues as soon as it has the necessary permits.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Michigan agencies concerned by gaps in Great Lakes oil pipeline coating
Michigan agencies concerned by gaps in a coating on Line 5, a pipeline operated by Enbridge that runs through the northern Great Lakes. Image courtesy of Enbridge.

Aug. 31 (UPI) -- State agencies in Michigan said they were concerned by evidence showing gaps in a protective coating on a pipeline system in the northern Great Lakes.

Pipeline operator Enbridge is facing push back from residents in the northern part of Michigan's lower peninsula worried about the integrity of Line 5, a pipeline system running through the Mackinac Straits. The company said it felt the system was in as good a condition as when it was installed, though two of the state's Great Lakes intersect at the straits, creating a turbulent maritime environment.

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The Michigan State Police, Departments of Environmental Quality and Natural Resources, and the Michigan Agency for Energy said they were concerned by information showing there are gaps in the protective coating on parts of Line 5, at least one of which was caused when Enbridge installed new supportive anchors.

"This recent finding raises concerns about the actions Enbridge is taking to protect the waters of the Great Lakes," DNR Director Keith Creagh said in a statement. "We need to ensure that all appropriate risk mitigation measures have been put in place by Enbridge."

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Enbridge confirmed two areas on the pipeline are exposed and a possible third area is still being reviewed. In a statement, the company said there was no visual evidence that the integrity of the pipeline was compromised.

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"Enbridge will repair these sections of coating immediately following the completion of all sampling and coating inspections, and after obtaining any necessary permits," the company said.

Enbridge is the operator of a broader regional oil pipeline system that extends into Canada and neighboring U.S. states. A rupture form the company's Line 6b in 2010 in southern Michigan, near Kalamazoo, triggered one of the largest inland oil spills in the history of the U.S. oil industry.

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"Human error was a major factor in Enbridge's spill into the Kalamazoo River," Valerie Brader, Executive Director of the Michigan Agency for Energy. "These coating gaps point to other areas where human error, not the environment, is creating problems."

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