Imagine never being able to swim in freshwater again. Now to my readers who live across the pond or who have never had the most wonderful and amazing experience of swimming in Lake Michigan, Lake Ontario, Lake Huron, Lake Erie or Lake Superior, imagine swimming in the most refreshing glass of water you’ve ever drank. Not worrying about reefs or accidentally stepping on a stingray or jelly fish. Diving into the freshest water one could swim in. No need to worry about salt covering your body and the taste it leaves on your lips. Swimming in Lake Michigan is indescribable. It’s magical.
Now you might think that our amazing freshwater lakes don’t have any threats, yet in fact we do. We have the largest and terrifying threat to our Great Lakes. It’s oil. Built in 1953 and has been running ever since. Everyday 23 million gallons of oil and petroleum products go through not one but two rusty weathered down pipelines. Just west of the Mackinac Bridge, they sit exposed and vulnerable to some of the strongest currents of the Great Lakes, sitting there on the bottom floor of the state of Michigan’s public lands. The Straits of Mackinac are being used by a fossil fuel company as a shortcut for transporting oil from Canadian soil to a *surprise!* Canadian refinery in Sarnia, Michigan. And we’re barely getting benefitted by this as we only get less than 10% of the oil that runs through Line 5, just getting the bullet from this game of Russian roulette. The oil and the two 20 inch pipelines aren’t owned by Michigan they’re owned and operated by a Canadian company, Enbridge Inc.
Lets talk about Enbridge for a moment. They operate across North America and move about two-thirds of Canada’s crude oil to the U.S. They also operate North America’s third largest natural gas utility by consumer count. They claim to work everyday to provide safe, reliable energy with their workforce of roughly 13,600 people, mainly in Canada and the United States. They also work by their “strong set of core values” being Safety, Integrity and Respect. Now if you go on their website-which is where I did my research and got all the details on this company- you’ll find many bullet points under their ‘core values’. Some of the bullet points were quite surprising to me as they have never shown that, as far as I’ve seen, when speaking to activists and board leaders deciding what to do with Line 5 and the well being of the Great Lakes. Under safety, one of the bullet points states; “Take immediate action when a safety issue is identified”. Line 5 has failed 29 times since 1968, spilling at least 1.13 million gallons of oil. Disgusting. But thats not it, there’s more! In early April of 2019, a hazardous liquid spilled into the Great Lakes from two nearby transmission cables. It released about 600 gallons of toxic coolant and insulating fluid from electric cables owned by the American Transmission Company (ATC). This incident happened on a Sunday, a long and grueling 24 hours later ATC reported the release to the Coast Guard. On Monday ATC had blamed ice in the water and near the shore that supposedly got in the way of the emergency response entrance. The next day Enbridge temporarily shut down the flow of Line 5 to gauge leak detection systems. More than a week after the original accident, Enbridge notified the state and federal officials that their pipelines had endured and suffered three dents, from the same watercraft that was so damaging to the other ATC lines. That doesn’t reciprocate what they state in their ‘core values’ at all. If they truly worked by their core values that they state, Enbridge would have taken immediate action to shutting down the pipelines temporarily and giving them a full, proper evaluation. As well as reporting as quickly as possible to state and federal officials on the condition of the pipelines, not taking 10 days. Instead they were lazy with their resources and acted as if they have no care for the state and well being of the Great Lakes, only care for the money they receive from the oil pumping through these two pipelines.
For the Love Of Water (FLOW), an incredible organization all about educating citizens and leaders far and wide about protecting the Great Lakes, has revealed that Enbridge has been operating illegally and has broken the easement agreement with the state and the people of Michigan in 8 different ways. I’ll link it for those who would like to read into it but for now heres the list,
- Standard of Care as a Reasonably Prudent Person (Section A)
- Indemnity Provision (Section J)
- Pipeline Wall Thickness Provision (Section A (11))
- Pipeline Exterior Slats and Coating Requirements (Section A (9))
- Pipeline Minimum Curvature Requirement (Section A (4))
- Maximum Unsupported Span Provision (Section A (10))
- Federal Violation of Emergency Oil Spill Response Plan (Section A)
- State Violation under the Michigan Environmental Protection Action (Section A)
As stated by Enbridge, the pipelines are in “excellent condition, almost as new as when they were built and installed and have no observed corrosion”. Enbridge has revealed in their data that there are sections of Line 5 that are cracked and dented along with on land parts of the pipeline that has lost 26% of the original wall thickness. They continuously mask information about dents, cracks and more corrosion from the public, state and federal. Enbridge has fallen short many times to meet the pipeline wall thickness requirement due to the corrosion and manufacturing defects dating all the way back to the 1950s. That being said the wall thickness is of less than half an inch in hundreds of sections and up to 41% less thick than mandated on the western pipelines. They have failed again to meet the “reasonably prudent person” provision by stating the steel pipelines sitting underwater west of the Mackinac Bridge built in 1953 does not require a plan for eventual decommissioning even though these pipelines were built to last 50 years. There are overexerted and disfigured segments of the pipeline from failing(again) to demonstrate ample liability insurance, maintain required coating and wood slat covering to avert the pipelines from rust, abrasion and support.
Now according to my research this goes against everything Enbridge “stands” for in their core values. They have swept away the correct information of these twin pipelines on their website making it seem to be in “perfect condition” and that the company wouldn’t ever do anything to hurt the Great Lakes and puts the environment first. Clearly not.
Now I’m sure you’re thinking, “We need fossil fuels and this gas for our mode of transportation and way of living!” “You can’t take away our gas and fossil fuels!” But I must inform you, decommissioning Line 5 is not a fight for immediately halting fossil fuel production or questioning its role in our current society, but merely the fact that an oil pipeline has no place and does not belong in the Great Lakes as the greatest system of surface freshwater in the world. Soon enough everyone will realize the detrimental effects of continuing the use of oil on our planet and will make the change to more sustainable uses of energy.
The State of Michigan is the most important and valuable voice to protecting our public and sacred waters. We have a voice and a decision to make, do we want play with fire or put it out?