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Line 5 pipeline spill would pollute the Great Lakes

Midwest Energy News reports on Enbridge’s Mackinac pipelines, part of the Line 5 pipeline in the Lakehead System, that run under the Straits of Mackinac. …The pipelines were built in 1953 and carry oil from the western U.S. and Canada (via Line 67) to refinery facilities in Sarnia, Ontario. …In 2012 Enbridge increased the amount of oil being transported on the Mackinac pipelines, to handle increased outputs from the Bakken oil shale in North Dakota.”

The Straits of Mackinac separate Michigan’s Lower and Upper peninsulas not far from the Canadian border.

Straits of Mackinac

“In the cold, fast-flowing depths of the Straits of Mackinac run pipelines which the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) says could pose a dire threat to the Great Lakes and the beloved tourist culture of nearby Mackinac Island. …The twin 20-inch-diameter pipelines more than 200 feet deep below the Straits are coated in ragged algae and encrusted with mussels and sediment, as shown (in a recently released) video, and long spans hover unsupported above the lake floor.”

The NWF highlights, “A large oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac could potentially spread across vast areas of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. A far-reaching oil slick that spread into Lake Huron could also affect Georgian Bay, one of the most vibrant freshwater ecosystems on the planet. …Enbridge has estimated that a ‘worst case’ discharge for line 5, with the eight minute shut off, would be up to 1.5 million gallons [about 36,000 barrels] of oil released. However, that is hardly worst case. Enbridge did not react to the Kalamazoo River spill for 17 hours despite warnings from their leak detection system, and instead had to be told about that release by a local utility.”

The article also notes, “Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac does not carry dilbit, according to Enbridge, but ‘light crude oil, light synthetic crude and natural gas liquids’. …(But) NWF community outreach regional coordinator Beth Wallace (says), ‘It’s tar sands-derived oil, it’s gone through one of many upgrading processes so it’s not as heavy as the dilbit (that spilled) in the Kalamazoo River, but it’s just one step up, not light by any means.'”

Further reading:
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