April 18 (UPI) -- Civil action may be pending against a Michigan tug boat company for damaging electric power and oil pipelines in state waters, the attorney general said.
Electric cabling company American Transmission Co. said two of its submarine cables that send power between both Michigan peninsulas were apparently damaged April 1 by a passing vessel. Around 600 gallons of a coolant fluid leaked from the cables into the narrow strait between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan as a result.
Canadian pipeline company Enbridge operates a broad network of pipelines that send Canadian oil through the region and Line 5 of that system runs through the same narrow Straits of Mackinac. The company took immediate action after learning of three dents on the pipeline system from the same incident. No leaks were reported.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said Michigan company VanEnkevort Tug and Barge was responsible for the incidents because one of its ships dragged an anchor through the straits, causing the damage.
"The vessel ignored markers in the channel and clearly identified hazards on navigational charts that make clear that an anchor should not be deployed in this area of straits," he said in a statement. "Allowing a large anchor to drag along the bottomlands in the straits has resulted in violations of state law, and we will hold VanEnkevort accountable."
State law forbids the discharge of hazardous substances into water and each violation carries a civil penalty of up to $25,000 per day of violation.
Darrell Wilson, a spokesman for VanEnkevort, said the company is working with state officials on the investigation into the incident.
"We are fully participating with all relevant authorities as they conduct the investigation," Wilson told UPI. "Due to the ongoing investigation it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time."
Enbridge, for its part, is facing push back from residents in the northern part of Michigan's lower peninsula worried about the integrity of Line 5, but the company said it felt it was in as good a condition as when it was installed more than 60 years ago. A rupture from the company's Line 6b in 2010 in southern Michigan triggered one of the largest inland oil spills in the history of the U.S. oil industry.
Vanenkevort had no public comment on Schuette's charge.