Schuette files civil suit against Van Enkenvort Tug and Barge, Inc.

LANSING — Michigan Attorney Bill Schuette filed a civil suit against Van Enkenvort Tug and Barge, Inc. in Ingham County Circuit Court, according to a statement released Thursday. The suit comes a few days after Schuette notified the Escanaba-based company about his intent to bring civil action forward.

Schuette’s office had previously determined that one of Van Enkenvort’s ships dragged an anchor across the Straits of Mackinac on April 1st. The anchor hit the submerged American Transmission Cables and Enbridge Line 5 pipelines, causing the release of a hazardous substance and potentially harming aquatic life and the lake bed.

“This incident raises red flags as to how an anchor drag like this could happen. We must hold Van Enkevort responsible for the clear violations of state law,” said Schuette in the statement. “Protecting the safety and security of the Great Lakes must continue to be our top priority so we can ensure an incident like this does not happen again.”

The suit seeks to obtain the following relief:

  • Require Van Enkevort to implement protective measures to ensure this sort of event does not happen again. The protective measures include but are not limited to installing specific safety equipment on its vessels and training its employees;
  • Require the company to pay a civil fine for causing the release of hazardous fluid into the Straits of Mackinac;
  • Require the company to compensate the public for potential damages related to Van Enkevort’s violations of statute and common law; and
  • Repay the costs of inspection, surveillance, and enforcement incurred by the state, in addition to attorney fees and court costs.

This civil action against Van Enkevort only applies to state civil violations, and does not address any federal law claims, or any criminal culpability or liability of any individuals who may be responsible for the anchor deployment or maintenance. Read more about the suit HERE.