UPDATE: Enbridge to immediately repair Line 5 pipeline coating

UPDATE — Wednesday, August 30, 2017 5:10 p.m. ET

Enbridge has released a statement to ABC 10 concerning the State of Michigan’s concerns about gaps in the protecting coating of Line 5. You can read their statement below:

“Enbridge initiated this summer several studies, inspections and maintenance project along the dual pipelines of Line 5 in the Straits.

One of the studies, which will run mid-August through mid-September 2017, includes assessing the impact of aquatic organisms, such as mussels, attached to the outer portion of Line 5 and an inspection of the enamel coating in various locations. Results from the August aquatic organism study will not be available for several weeks following the completion of the study; however, during the course of the associated inspection of the pipelines enamel coating, Enbridge has confirmed two locations containing small areas where there is pipeline without coating. A third location also has a possible small area of bare metal which is still being evaluated. None of the areas involve where delamination of the outer wrap over the coating had been observed.

There is no visual evidence of any corrosion or impact on the integrity of the pipe or the safe operation of the dual pipelines. The Line 5 pipelines at the Straits are protected with redundant systems including the enamel coating, cathodic protection, and internal and external integrity inspections.

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

The findings underscore 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 dual pipelines remain in excellent condition.”

-Ryan Duffy, Communications Strategist, Enbridge

LANSING — The Michigan Agency for Energy, Michigan Departments of Environmental Quality and Natural Resources and the Michigan State Police expressed concerns today about new information confirming there are gaps in the protective coating on a portion of Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac, at least one of which was apparently caused during the installation of supportive pipe anchors.

In response to the findings, the state called for the immediate inspection of areas around every anchor on Line 5, a report to the DNR and DEQ of any findings from the inspections, a copy of the video of the recent work performed on the pipeline, and repair within 30 days of any damage to the pipeline’s coating.

“The possibility this loss of coating occurred during the anchor installation process and was not immediately addressed is completely unacceptable,” said Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director C. Heidi Grether. “As we continue to review the current permit application to install more anchor supports, I plan to ask Enbridge to provide additional information regarding previous installations, including at a minimum, any available video footage of the installation activities. I want a greater assurance that the integrity of all aspects meant to protect the Great Lakes is the company’s utmost priority.”

Michigan DNR Director Keith Creagh said, “This recent finding raises concerns about the actions Enbridge is taking to protect the waters of the Great Lakes. We need to ensure that all appropriate risk mitigation measures have been put in place by Enbridge. Until that happens, we, as a state, will not be satisfied.”

While there is no indication that the gaps create an immediate concern to the health and safety of the Straits, given that the exterior cathodic protection system is reportedly operational, the results point to larger issues.

“While the hydrotest results give us confidence that the pipeline is not in imminent danger from these gaps, the fact that human error, not a mussel, created them is something that raises real concern,” said Valerie Brader, executive director of the Michigan Agency for Energy. “Human error was a major factor in Enbridge’s spill into the Kalamazoo River. These coating gaps point to other areas where human error, not the environment, are creating problems.”

“Enbridge should quickly repair the damaged pipeline covering to provide the extra protection,” said Capt. Chris Kelenske, deputy state director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and commander of the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division. “It is imperative that the company do the right thing for the residents of Michigan and prove they can be good stewards in protecting the natural resources all Michiganians hold dear.”

Line 5 is a 645-mile pipeline built in 1953 and runs from Superior, Wisconsin, to Sarnia, Canada. It transports up to 540,000 barrels a day of light crude oil and natural gas liquids.