To insure safety, more monitoring needed on pipeline

The news could bring a sigh of relief to some and more suspicion to others.

Enbridge reported an oil pipeline beneath the Straits of Mackinac has passed pressure tests, which took place Saturday on one pipeline that’s part of Line 5.

The tests were required in a Justice Department agreement after a 30-inch Enbridge pipeline ruptured near downstate Marshall in 2010, contaminating Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River with hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil.

The Environmental Protection Agency ordered the company to dredge submerged oil and oil-contaminated sediment from the Kalamazoo River, with over 1.2 million gallons of oil recovered from the river from 2010 to 2014.

According to the Associated Press, Enbridge in the recent Line 5 test pumped the line’s west segment with water and kept pressure high for 8 hours. Following the successful test, the Canadian company reported the line is fit for service, with no leaks detected.

Located where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron converge, the pipeline carries about 23 million gallons of crude oil and liquid natural gas daily between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario.

What is of concern to many people is the age of the pipeline, which was built in 1953 and consists of two 20-inch diameter Line 5 pipelines. The organization Oil and Water Don’t Mix, based in Traverse City, stressed Enbridge’s pipelines have laid on the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac for over six decades.

There are other concerns. The Detroit News reported last week that environmentalists have argued recent revelations — that stretches of the pipeline that didn’t have required supports in years past — mean the line should be shut down until a third party can study it.

They contend long sections didn’t have anchoring supports along the bottom of the strait for undetermined amounts of time. This subjected the pipelines to possible damage from the strong currents.

Also, that the pipeline crosses an ecologically sensitive area close to Mackinac Island is another troublesome factor.

Solutions range from making major upgrades to replacing the twin pipelines with top pipeline technology to even permanently removing the pipelines throughout the Straits.

Even with the Enbridge pipeline passing the pressure tests, could something go wrong at some point? When will the pipeline “age out”? And will people want to wait that long?

Agencies should play a strong role in strictly monitoring the Enbridge pipeline. As with many sensitive environmental issues, this situation bears watching.

We believe Enbridge has been cooperative and proactive regarding the safety of Line 5 and we hope that continues in the future.