2016-09-29 / Front Page

Line 5 Is Focus of Attention for Rally and Inspectors

‘Eyes on the Pipeline’ - Construction on Line Near Black River Is Routine Part of Visual Inspection, Enbridge Says
By Stephanie Fortino


A portion of Line 5 near Black River in Mackinac County was unearthed earlier this month so Enbridge Energy could visually inspect the pipeline as part of routine inspections, said spokesman Ryan Duffy. The worksite and exposed pipeline is shown Sunday, September 18. Reports of oil sheens on the water in the area are unrelated to Line 5, Mr. Duffy said. (Photograph courtesy Lisa Adams) A portion of Line 5 near Black River in Mackinac County was unearthed earlier this month so Enbridge Energy could visually inspect the pipeline as part of routine inspections, said spokesman Ryan Duffy. The worksite and exposed pipeline is shown Sunday, September 18. Reports of oil sheens on the water in the area are unrelated to Line 5, Mr. Duffy said. (Photograph courtesy Lisa Adams) Enbridge Energy performed what they termed routine dig work to visually inspect Line 5 near Black River in Mackinac County about two weeks ago. The company dug around the pipeline to expose it and visually inspect the line, Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy told The St. Ignace News.

“It was an integrity dig,” Mr. Duffy said. “We do a lot of those to put eyes on the pipe externally to check it out. It’s pretty routine, something we do from time to time.”

After the pipeline is excavated, Enbridge inspectors sometimes peel back the outer coating to look at the steel exterior of the pipeline. The company has a permit with the Department of Environmental Quality to do the work and ensure it meets state regulations for runoff and other issues. Excavation can be disruptive, Mr. Duffy said, but the company replaces the soil and replants grass. If the line is on private property, Enbridge notifies the owners in advance and provides compensation for any damage.

Work on the section of Line 5 near Black River began Friday, September 16, and was completed the following week. As of Monday, September 26, Mr. Duffy said all work was done.

Enbridge does integrity digs throughout the length of Line 5 and all of its pipelines.

“It’s something we’ve done a lot more of since Marshall,” Mr. Duffy said, referring to the Enbridge 2010 pipeline oil spill into the Kalamazoo River.

Around the time Line 5 near Black River was being inspected, some concerned citizens reported seeing oil sheens on the water in the area. The reports were made several days after a fisherman saw some rainbow sheens on the water. Enbridge investigated the calls late last week, on Thursday, September 22, and Friday, September 23.

“We got a call that people saw something,” Mr. Duffy said. “We checked it out and determined it wasn’t Line 5.”

The company did not receive any reports of a leak in the area, he added.

The DEQ also responded to complaints about oil sheens on Black River, said Steve Casey, U.P. District Supervisor for the DEQ Water Resources Division.

On September 23, someone walked into the DNR’s Newberry office and said a friend saw an oil sheen 12 days earlier on Sunday, September 11. The DEQ staff in Newberry contacted the person who saw the sheen and a DEQ staff member looked at the mouth of the Black River and at the pipeline.

“Friday, we didn’t see any signs of oil, either at the mouth of the river or at the pipeline crossing,” Mr. Casey said.

Following up on a 12-day-old complaint is difficult, as any signs of what had occurred had disappeared.

“We didn’t do much of anything about it because we didn’t see what the complainant saw,” he said.

Mr. Casey couldn’t say what the fisherman might have seen at Black River in mid-September.

“It’s pretty hard to speculate on a complaint 12 days after the fact,” he said.

If someone suspects oil in the environment, they should call the Pollution

Emergency Alert System, which is continuously staffed, as soon as possible: (800) 292-4706.

“If you want to have any option for us to look at the issue,” Mr. Casey said, “we’ve got to be out there when it’s happening.”

The DEQ frequently gets calls from concerned citizens who think they see oil sheens or spills, he noted, but most urn out to be something else. Iron bacteria, for example, create rainbow sheens on water, but are completely natural. One easy way for people to determine whether a rainbow sheen is iron bacteria or oil, he said, is to put a stick through the sheen. If it breaks up, it’s iron bacteria; if it comes back together and reforms, it’s oil.

“It’s not uncommon for us to get a complaint that turned out to be iron bacteria,” Mr. Casey said.

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