2016-10-06 / Opinion

Enbridge’s Routine Inspection Is a Routine for Failure

To the Editor:

Enbridge has explained that it is conducting an “integrity dig” in an area near the Black River west of St. Ignace. Let me explain what an “integrity dig” is. When a pipeline is inspected using sophisticated inline inspection tools (“smart pig”), a record is made of all the observed crack and corrosion features in the pipe. When Enbridge’s pipeline integrity department reviews these records, they select the ones that are more dangerous than company standards for further examination. This examination is made by digging up the pipe and using magnetic and ultrasound tools to actually measure the crack or corrosion feature that was found by the smart pig. This process, where problem areas found by the smart pigs are excavated and physically examined, is called conducting an integrity dig. That Enbridge is finding se- rious crack and corrosion features in the stretch of Line 5 from Rapid River to St. Ignace is not good news.

Documents released by Attorney General Bill Schuette and Governor Rick Snyder’s Pipeline Safety Board reveal that the stretch of Line 5 running from Naubinway to St. Ignace is the most problematic part of Line 5. In a document entitled “Re: Line 5 Straits of Mackinac Changes in Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure,” dated April 6, 2016, Enbridge reveals that the pipeline segment from Naubinway to St. Ignace is restricted to operate at a much lower pressure than originally permitted because of pipeline integrity concerns. As a matter of fact, this stretch of Line 5 is sufficiently corroded and cracked that a continuous maintenance effort is required to keep it running at restricted pressure. Needless to say, any rupture in the stretch from Rapid River to Naubinway would flow directly into Lake Michigan through the numerous marshes, creeks, rivers, and drains that Line 5 crosses.

Enbridge’s public relations campaign has done a masterful job of spinning evidence of impending danger into a positive. Don’t buy it. Richard Kuprewicz, a noted pipeline expert, informed me that the most dangerous part of Line 5 may well be the segment from Rapid River to Naubinway, and I see no reason to disagree with his opinion. I have called for Governor Snyder’s Pipeline Board to examine every inch of Line 5, not just the part under the Straits. Enbridge’s recent “integrity dig” at the Black River is just more evidence that Line 5 should be restricted until a complete examination by independent experts of every inch of it has been conducted.

Edward Timm, PhD, PE

Harbor Springs

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