Line 5 Oil Pipeline a Threat to the Great Lakes

Under the Straits of Mackinac – where the heart of America’s freshwater seas meet – runs an aging oil pipeline carrying up to 23 million gallons of oil a day.

This pipeline – Line 5, built in 1953 – happens to be operated by the same company responsible for one of the largest inland oil spills in North American history: Enbridge (U.S) Inc. During that pipeline rupture, previously known cracks formed into a 6 foot gash which spilled over 840,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River in 2010.

Originally built to last 50 years, Line 5 underneath the Straits is now almost 15 years past its prime. There are numerous places along the underwater section of the pipeline where protective coating is missing, and for much of the history of the pipeline, numerous sections of pipe were not properly supported on the Lake Michigan lakebed – where it gets pummeled by currents. In fact, those supports were not replaced until video from a National Wildlife Federation dive inspection revealed them. Recently, Enbridge itself confirmed that part of its outer protection coating was missing from sections of the pipeline.

A recent 2017 NWF report revealed that the land-based sections of Line 5 have leaked 29 times since 1968, spilling over 1 million gallons of oil. We cannot risk a spill in the Straits, which a 2016 University of Michigan study estimates could cover 700 miles of shoreline and impact a 17,000-square mile spill zone.

At risk are the fish and wildlife of the Great Lakes, the drinking water relied upon by citizens, and the region’s recreation and tourism economy which supports the northern Michigan way of life. So it should be no surprise that two-thirds of Michiganders oppose the continued operation of the pipeline under the Straits, as reported by a 2016 EPIC-MRA poll commissioned by NWF.

The State of Michigan released a report on alternatives to Line 5 on June 29, 2017, while the week before it scrapped a risk analysis due to a conflict of interest arising from an employee of the firm hired to do the analysis also working on a separate project for Enbridge. A public information session on the alternatives report is schedule for July 6 near Lansing, MI.

Additional News & Resources:

Great Lakes Business Network

Infographic: Propane Alternatives to Line 5

Infographic: The Kalamazoo River Oil Spill Disaster

Infographic: The 29 Spills of Line 5

NWF Video: The Kalamazoo River Oil Spill Disaster (Ep. 1)

NWF Video: Seven Years and Counting (Ep. 2)

NWF Video: Actions Speak Louder than Words (Ep. 3) 

NWF Report: Sunken Hazard

NWF Video: Sunken Hazard

Video: The Dirty Secret at the Bottom of the Great Lakes (Motherboard)