superior environment

Mandatory new anchor supports for Line 5

After a June line inspection, Enbridge has 90 days to install more anchor supports on the twin Line 5 oil pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac. MLive reports that Michigan posted a notice to the company last week, stating that the pipeline was in violation of its 63-year old easement.

According to the 1953 document, Line 5 must keep anchor supports across gaps greater than 75 feet. As the lakebed erodes and shifts over time, those gaps can shift or widen. The June report indicated Enbridge found four locations with gaps greater than 75 feet. To amend the problem, Enbridge applied with the MDEQ on August 1 to install 19 new screw anchor supports, four of which will fix the gaps and the other 15 for “preventative maintenance.”

The new supports would follow 2014’s installation of 40 new supports, after which Enbridge stated in correspondence that its “predictive maintenance model” would not allow for anchor gaps over 75 feet to happen going forward. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, MDEQ director Heidi Grether, and DNR director Keith Creagh co-signed a violation letter on August 3 demanding to know why the maintenance model failed to deliver its promise.

Though Enbridge inspects Line 5 every two years (more frequently than legally necessary), the violation letter called for a new maintenance plan that “should included, as needed, increased inspection frequency.”

To see the full story from MLive, click here.

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NOAA debuts new invasive species database

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (U.S.) have debuted a new acquatic invasive species database which aims to help members of the public, researchers, and government bodies keep track of non-indigenous critters introduced to the Great Lakes.

The database is dubbed GLANSIS, the Great Lakes Aquatic Non-Indigenous Species Information System. It is divided into main categories:

  • non-indigenous species: those not natural to the Great Lakes basin
  • range expansion species: those native to some of the Great Lakes but not others
  • watchlist species: those not currently found in the Great Lakes but assessed as likely to invade

GLANSIS is connected to the larger USGS NAS database, and will they’ll be updated simultaneously. However, the GLANSIS database was intended as a Great Lakes-specific tool with targeted information for researchers and citizens only seeking Great Lakes-specific info. If there are any species missing from, or deliberately not included in GLANSIS, the NOAA suggests consulting the NAS database.

The species are included in the database subject to a number of criterion, including

  • geographic criterion – only species established below the Great Lakes high watermark included
  • aquatic criterion – only aquatic species included (therefore not waterfowl, reptiles, and mammals who are not solely dependent on the water)
  • non-indigenous criterion – sudden appearance, subsequent spread, restricted distribution, distribution in association with human involvement, etc
  • range expansion criterion – cryptogenic species are not included
  • established criterion – species which are evidenced to have established life cycles over a period of two consecutive years

Currently, there are 187 non-indigenous species fact sheets available for viewing in GLANSIS, as well as 10 fact sheets for range expansion species. GLANSIS received funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) to make improvements and further developments to the database.

In addition to the data collection and presentation, the NOAA provides a link for citizens and researchers to report invasive species found at new locations, tips for invasive species prevention, a glossary for new-comers, and a kid-friendly page.

To visit GLANSIS, click here. 

 

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Shuniah Township to hold hazardous waste clean up

Shuniah Township, located along the North Shore of Lake Superior, will be holding another Household Hazardous Waste Day this July 23, 2016. The event will be located at MacGregor Landfill Site, from 10am-2pm. The effort helps residents safely dispose of any unwanted household, pool, automotive, and garden chemicals.

According to an add in the Shuniah News, the collection site will accept a number of toxic items, including:

  • paints, coatings, and their containers
  • solvents and their containers
  • single-use dry cell batteries
  • pressurized containers (i.e. spray paint, hairspray, household cleaners, gas barbecue cynclinders)
  • lawn fertilizers, pesticides, and their containers
  • antifreeze and containers
  • empty lubricating oil containers

The Hazardous Waste Day is an Orange Drop Program initiative, run by Stewardship Ontario and funded by industry. Orange Drop aims to “provide Ontario residents with a free, safe, and easy way to dispose of household products which require special handling.” The program coordinates a network of drop-off sites, holding Hazardous Waste Days in different municipalities to help ensure these harmful chemicals don’t wind up in landfills, sewers, or drains. The net effect of Shuniah’s event is to keep Lake Superior’s shoreline and watersheds clean and healthy.

To see more about Orange Drop, click here. 

 

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SPECIAL REPORT: Severe weather hits Minnesota, Wisconsin

Several areas in the Midwest were hammered earlier this week with severe weather, including flooding rain and tornados. A storm on July 11 had substantial impacts on the Lake Superior coastline at Saxon Harbor, almost directly on the Wisconsin/Michigan border. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker recorded a video of the impact of floodwater on the Lake Superior coastline, visible in the Twitter link below. NASA photos from space show mud and sediment being swept into Lake Superior.

 


In addition to coastal environmental impacts, dozens of boats were damaged and eight boats are still lost. No sheen (oil slick) has been noted on the water. The Bad River and Bad River Reservation saw significant impacts: a representative of the Bad River Band said that the Bad River rose 27 feet, a new record. In Minnesota the I – 35 interstate highway was closed, a rare occurrence for this main route to the Superior basin. Rain was measured at over 12 inches in the centre of the storm area near the Wisconsin/Michigan border, although effects were felt in all three states bordering Lake Superior.


In addition to extreme wind down-bursts, several small tornadoes were also documented. Several people had to be rescued from a site on the Apostle Islands. Three confirmed deaths have been attributed to the storm as of July 14 and governor Walker declared a state of emergency in eight counties.


For more information and pictures, see the following links:

The Weather Channel: ‘Tornados, flooding leave damage in Minnesota; ‘I’ve never seen a storm like this’

Kare 11 (Minneapolis/St. Paul) video coverage of the storms

Minnesota Public Radio article showing sediment and floodwater impacts on Lake Superior shoreline

Ashland Daily Press photos of the storms

Featured photo of mud and sediment being swept out to Lake Superior credit to Nathan Mielke (@ndmielke) via Twitter.

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Aquatic Invasive Species Week – Tips, Info, and News

Last week marked Aquatic Invasive Species Week in Michigan, and the Department of Environmental Quality provided some basic knowledge, tips, and tricks to help residents keep invasive species out of the Great Lakes.

If you’re not familiar with the impact that invasive (non-native) species can have on the environment, the economy, and human health, take a look at this 6 minute video provided by the Michigan DEQ. (And even if you are familiar, take a look anyway – there are some pretty jaw-dropping facts in the video!)

The Michigan DEQ believes it is everyone’s responsibility to stop the spread and reduce the impact of invasive species, and provides tips for all residents and tourists on how to help. Click here for easy tips if you are a: boater/angler, aquarium/pond owner, camper, hunters/trail user, or landowner.

If you’re looking for information geared to Lake Superior, the Lake Superior Binantional Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 11.13.24 AMProgram has you covered. They’ve compiled an Aquatic Species Complete Prevention Plan, easily accessible via PDF. Click here to see.  Lake Superior’s non-native aquatic species include the round goby, the eurasian ruffe, purple loosestrife, New Zealand mudsnail, zebra mussels, sea lamprey, and eurasian watermilfoil. For an example of how much invasive species can impact your daily life, the DEQ measured lakeshore property values of houses which had eurasian water milfoil present versus those that didn’t. The properties which had the invasive water plant were, on average, worth 19% less than properties without the plant.

While invasive species have a number of different entry points to the Great Lakes, mostly their presence is due to human influence. As the DEQ states, “Modern means of transportation bring goods, services, people and invasives to all reaches of the globe. Ballast water from ships is to blame for introducing many invasive organisms to Great Lakes waters. Some exotic pets and plants that escape into the wild adapt to local conditions. Insects arriving from abroad in wood packing materials and wood products have caused irreparable damage to native trees and forests. Some invasives were brought to the U.S. intentionally as bio-controls for other invasives; others were introduced as game or food species.”

Ballast water treatment has been a hot-button issue lately, as politicians and industry are warring over how strict legislation and regulation should be. Promising news came last week as the International Marine Organization’s ‘International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments’ (BWM Convention) took a step towards being ratified completely. Originally adopted in 2004, the BWM Convention took aim and standardizing ballast water treatment guidelines to prevent the spread of invasive species. The IMO states that:

Under the convention, all ships in international traffic are required to manage their ballast water and sediments to a certain standard, according to a ship-specific ballast water management plan. All ships will also have to carry a ballast water record book and an international ballast water management certificate. The ballast water management standards will be phased in over a period of time. As an intermediate solution, ships should exchange ballast water mid-ocean. However, eventually most ships will need to install an on-board ballast water treatment system.

The BWM convention will not enter into force (be binding on its global signatories), until 12 months after 30 states representing 35% of the world’s merchant shipping tonnage have ratified it. Currently, 51 global states representing 34.87% tonnage have ratified the convention, and a Lexology article on ‘biosecurity’ and ballast water reports that “it is hoped Finland will quickly follow [in ratifying] with its 0.14% tonnage.” (Tonnage is analyzed by IMO on a monthly basis, so this figure is subject to change.)

Canada has ratified the convention, but U.S. has not, following its own set of more stringent ballast water treatment standards enforced by the U.S. Coast Guard.

 

 

 

 

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Superior Watershed Partnership gets $1mil project funding

The Superior Watershed Partnership has received more than $1 million in funding from state, federal, and private sources to coordinate and implement conservation, restoration, and pollution prevention projects around Marquette, MI. The funding will be used for the 2016/2017 field seasons.

The funded projects will cover stormwater management, habitat restoration, tree planting, and energy conservation, among others. Some of the larger projects aim to improve water quality and directly benefit Lake Superior.

An article on the Upper Michigan Source reported an abbreviated list of current Superior Watershed Partnership projects. See the projects, and their funding amounts, below:

·Coastal Wetland Restoration and Stormwater Quality Improvement ($200,000): The EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) awarded this grant to restore prioritized coastal wetlands and naturally treat stormwater runoff before entering Lake Superior.

·Habitat Restoration for Migratory Birds and Pollinator Species ($88,000): This high profile project will restore important habitat for migratory birds and pollinator species along nearly two miles of Lake Superior shoreline within the Marquette city limits. Funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

·Native Tree Restoration in Riparian and Coastal Zones ($190,000): The US Forest Service awarded this GLRI grant to plant native species of trees and remove non-native species on public and private lands along the Dead River riparian corridor and prioritized coastal zones of Lake Superior.

·Urban and Rural Watershed Restoration ($150,000): This EPA GLRI grant will fund urban and rural restoration projects including watersheds and sub-watersheds in the City of Marquette.

·Protecting Public Beaches through Improved Stormwater Management ($198,000): Phase two of this EPA GLRI bio-engineering project behind Lakeview Arena will be completed in 2016 with approved diversions to adjacent wetlands for additional natural filtration to further improve water quality and prevent beach closures. Monitoring has confirmed significant bacteria reductions to date.

·Household Monarch Butterfly/Pollinator Gardens ($7,500): Over 5,000 milkweed seed packets (totally over 150,000 seeds) were mailed to households in the greater Marquette area. In addition, the SWP and the NMU greenhouse staff provided over 3,000 free milkweed transplants to the public to benefit the endangered Monarch Butterfly.

·Great Lakes Education Mini-Grants for K-12 Schools ($18,500): The SWP Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI) program provides grants for K-12 schools to get students more involved in actual Great Lakes protection, restoration and monitoring projects. Over the last year grants were provided to Marquette Senior High School, North Star Academy, Bothwell, Sandy Knoll, Graveraet and other schools.

·Energy Conservation and Energy Assistance Program ($315,000): The SWP administers the Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) for qualifying low income families. The program includes energy conservation, insulation and state assistance with energy bills. Approximately $315,000 in energy conservation measures and energy assistance was provided to residents in the greater Marquette area during the 2015/2016 season. Funded through the Michigan Public Service Commission.

·Comprehensive Stormwater Planning ($125,000): SWP staff wrote a successful grant application for the City of Marquette through the DEQ Stormwater, Asset Management, and Wastewater (SAW) program. DEQ awarded funding for the development of a comprehensive stormwater and watershed management plan to better manage runoff from roads, parking lots and yards and to improve the quality of stormwater entering Lake Superior.

·Great Lakes Conservation Corps ($25,000): GLCC crews employ young adults 18-25 years old that complete a wide variety of conservation projects within the City of Marquette including but not limited to: dune restoration, invasive plant removal, beach clean-ups, habitat restoration and more.

To see more on the Superior Watershed Partnership, visit their website here.

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Pending Menominee metal mine decision stirring controversy

A pending metal mine dubbed ‘the Back Forty’ is stirring up controversy in the Upper Peninsula on the border between Wisconsin and Michigan. Michigan officials are weighing whether or not to let the mine be built on the bank of the Menominee River, which locals, indigenous groups, and environmental groups fear could pollute the river itself and surrounding watersheds.

The mine proposal has been in the works for over a decade and objectors are scrambling to have their concerns heard as the company, Aquila Resources Inc., makes its final presentations to Michigan officials. If it were to be approved, the open-pit, 83-acre mine would be built on the Wisconsin/Michigan border, 150 feet from the Menominee River. It is supposed to pull gold, zinc, copper, and silver out of the ground, which will be used to fuel the tech industry and make products such as cell phones, computers, cars, and other products. Aquila promises an economic boost of 450 mine jobs, 1330 construction jobs, and royalties of over 16.5 million.

As part of the Great Lakes basin, the Menominee empties into Lake Michigan, and opponents of the mine have several complaints about its proposed location. The proposed mine site borders a Native American burial ground and raised gardens. Resident retirees feel it will disrupt their quality of life, and other opponents claim it would threaten bass fishing populations and lake sturgeon conservation efforts. In addition, the mining methods use to extract metals from sulfide ores are raising particular alarm from locals and environmentalists, who fear acid mine drainage into the river and its connected lakes and groundwater sources.

The Upper Peninsula is no stranger to mining operations and their effects. Copper mines littered the area from the mid-1800s to the 1960s, churning out billions of tonnes of copper. Mining efforts have since experienced a resurgence in the area. North of the proposed Aquila site is the Eagle Mine, an underground sulfide operation close to Lake Superior that faced similar backlash in its inception.

For a detailed look at the Menominee Mine and its surrounding issues, click here to view an in-depth article by Brian Bienkowski with the Environmental Health Network. 

Menominee River, photo credit River Alliance of Wisconsin.
Menominee River, photo credit River Alliance of Wisconsin.

Though the mine straddles the Wisconsin/Michigan border, Michigan officials have final say in issuing a permit for the mine’s building and operations. The River Alliance of Wisconsin recently brought attention to the mine in an update lamenting that “Wisconsin citizens are limited in what actions they can take to express their displeasure with or influence the development of this mine.” It also stated that the Wisconsin DNR would review Aquila’s permit application, but had little say in its decision.

The update reported that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality would be holding a public hearing in August, likely at Lansing, MI,  to review all the permits Aquila is requesting for its operations at Menominee. According to the River Alliance, the MDEQ sent 200 questions to Aquila, seeking explanation and accountability for gaps in the analysis it submitted with its permit applications.

The River Alliance states that it joins the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin (MITW), Front 40 Citizens Group, and Save the Wild UP in raising awareness among Wisconsin citizens about the pending mine. As part of these efforts, the River Alliance invited the public to an event aimed at appreciating and celebrating the Menominee River. “On July 29, we are hosting a paddling excursion on the Menominee River, with help from our friends the Menominee Indian Tribe and the Front 40 citizens group.”

To see the River Alliance of Wisconsin’s update, click here. The update includes a link for anyone interested in the paddling excursion.

This year’s Mother Earth Water Walk was dedicated to raising awareness about the pending Back Forty Menominee mine. The walk is an annual advocacy event dedicated to raising awareness about water issues. For more info, click here to visit the Mother Earth Water Walk site here. 

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Lake Invaders: former reporter publishes new invasive species book

Author William Rapai, a former newspaper reporter and amateur naturalist, recently published his second book Lake Invaders: Invasive Species and the Battle for the Future of the Great Lakes. MetroMode’s (of Metro Detroit) Kirk Haverkamp interviewed him for a preview of his perspective on the environmental, economic, and political aspects of fighting back against non-native species in the Great Lakes Basin.

Haverkamp and Rapai discuss how ‘invasive species’ was not coined as a term until the 1990s; other examples of invasive species effects from Hawaii, New Zealand, and North America (did you know the dandelion was brought over from Europe as a food source?); how non-native species invaded the Great Lakes via the Welland Canal and ballast water from ocean liners; potential beneficial effects of invasive species, and more.

Below is an excerpt from the interview which covers the domino effect invasives can have on ecosystems and tourist industry, and the legal loopholes which prevent effective enforcement to deal with the issues.

For the full interview, click here to visit MetroMode.

MM: Alewives, which used to be a huge problem, are mostly gone?

WR: Yes. One of the things I’m fond of talking about is the cascading effects these invasive species have had over the years. When the alewives first came in, their population in Lake Michigan alone was somewhere around a trillion fish at one time. That’s a lot of fish.

So when the Michigan Department of Natural Resources decided to stock Lake Michigan with salmon, the salmon had a ready-made food source.

But now, because of the quagga and zebra mussels, the amount of plankton in the lakes has been significantly cut, so the alewife population (which feeds on plankton) is pretty much gone in Lake Huron, and it is falling very rapidly in Lake Michigan.

And because the alewife is gone is Lake Huron, the salmon population there has followed that decline. There’s practically no salmon left in Lake Huron, and as the alewife population continues to decline in Lake Michigan, the salmon population is also going to continue to decline there as well.

MM: And that’s a big impact for the sport fishery?

WR: Towns like Frankfurt and Muskegon and Ludington, where a lot of charter fishing is based, are really beginning to hurt a little bit because of the lack of people coming back from previous years. People are realizing that those fish that they used to catch, which were once so plentiful, are no longer there.

It seems that one of the big challenges is coordinating policy.  I think a lot of people would be surprised to learn that states have primary authority on invasive species management, rather than the federal government.

Because there’s nothing in the Constitution that says the federal government shall have control over the Great Lakes, it becomes a matter of state control. Now, what happens when all the states surrounding the Great Lakes and the provinces of Canada have conflicting interests?

That’s what we are seeing with Asian Carp in Chicago-area waterways. You’ve got Michigan saying “No, we don’t want those carp here in our Great Lakes” and Illinois and Indiana saying “Yes, we don’t want the carp here either, but we also want to keep this canal open, because it’s a direct waterway to the Great Lakes.”

MM: That also relates to the problem of enforcement. You talk in your book about a ship emptying ballast water that may have organisms in it, but the state of Michigan can’t hold the ship for testing.

WR: Right. The State of Michigan has absolutely no authority to stop a ship because the federal government has authority in this matter, due to the interstate commerce clause in the Constitution.

And that means the State of Michigan and the State of Wisconsin cannot go on board a ship and seize it or stop it or tell it to stop dumping ballast water. And that limits what a state can do to protect its own water and its environment.

MM: It often seems like there’s an awful lot of hoops to go through before you can take action. For example, you have to be able to prove a species is a threat before you can ban it.  

WR: You’re right. And because of the federal government’s policy, the Lacey Act of 1900, we have largely been playing from behind. The Lacey Act says that harmful organisms can’t be imported into the United States. But you can only know that it is harmful after it has been here and has become established, and you can show that it is injurious to plants or wildlife in the United States. In that way, it is innocent until proven guilty.

Well, we need to flip that on its head and say it’s guilty until proven innocent.

To purchase a copy of Rapai’s book, click here. 

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New research finds effects of microplastics on fish

While there’s no doubting that microplastics pose an oversize problem for keeping the environment clean, their effects on wildlife have been contested and debated for years. A recent study from Uppsala University endeavored to find out what measurable effects microplastics were having on fish populations, and came up with some unfortunate results. The article below is credited to Science Daily, reporting on the research article originally published in Science.

“In a new study, published in Science, researchers from Uppsala University found that larval fish exposed to microplastic particles during development displayed changed behaviors and stunted growth which lead to greatly increased mortality rates. The researchers discovered that larval perch that had access to microplastic particles only ate plastic and ignored their natural food source of free-swimming zooplankton.

Microplastic particles (defined as plastic particles <5mm in size) originate from large plastic waste products that fragment into smaller pieces, or from manufactured plastics of microscopic size (e.g., microbeads in personal care products). These microscopic waste particles reach oceans via waterways and lakes and accumulate in high concentrations in shallow coastal areas.

Today there is increasing concern that the accumulation of microplastic waste particles could affect the functioning of marine ecosystems, but our knowledge of the impacts of microplastic fragments on marine animals is limited. For the first time, scientists have now been able to show that development of fish is threatened by microplastic pollution.

‘Fish reared in different concentrations of microplastic particles have reduced hatching rates and display abnormal behaviors. The microplastic particle levels tested in the current study are similar to what is found in many coastal habitats in Sweden and elsewhere in the world today’ says marine biologist, Oona Lönnstedt, lead author of the article.

Larval perch exposed to environmentally relevant concentrations of microplastic polystyrene particles displayed stunted growth rates. The authors found that this was related to larval feeding preferences as perch that had access to microplastic particles only ate plastic and ignored their natural food source of free-swimming zooplankton.

‘This is the first time an animal has been found to preferentially feed on plastic particles and is cause for concern’, says Professor Peter Eklöv, co-author of the study.

In a new study, published in Science, researchers from Uppsala University found that larval fish exposed to microplastic particles during development displayed changed behaviors and stunted growth which lead to greatly increased mortality rates. The researchers discovered that larval perch that had access to microplastic particles only ate plastic and ignored their natural food source of free-swimming zooplankton.

‘Larvae exposed to microplastic particles during development also displayed changed behaviors and were much less active than fish that had been reared in water that contained no microplastic particles. Furthermore, fish exposed to microplastic particles ignored the smell of predators which usually evoke innate antipredator behaviors in naïve fish’, says Oona Lönnstedt.

The lack of an antipredator response made larvae more vulnerable to predators. Indeed, when perch were placed together with a natural predator (pike), fish that had been exposed to microplastic particles were caught and eaten more than four times quicker than control fish, with all fish exposed to microplastic particles dead within 48 hours.

If this response in fish larvae translates to higher mortality rates as a result of increased predation risk in nature, there could be direct consequences for the replenishment and the sustainability of fish populations.

‘Increases in microplastic pollution in the Baltic Sea and marked recruitment declines of the coastal keystone species, like perch and pike, have recently been observed. Our study suggests a potential driver for the observed decreased recruitment rate and increased mortality’, says Peter Eklöv.

‘If early life-history stages of other species are similarly affected by microplastics, and this translates to increased mortality rates, the effects on aquatic ecosystems could be profound’, says Oona Lönnstedt.

The findings highlight ecologically important and previously underappreciated effects of microplastic particles that enter marine ecosystems, and emphasizes the need for new management strategies or alternative biodegradable products that lowers the release of microplastic waste products.

The study, published in Friday’s edition of the scientific journal Science, should be seen as a pointer about what may be underway in many oceans around the world. However, more comprehensive studies are required before any far-reaching conclusions can be drawn.”

 

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Enbridge’s Line 5 under inspection, scrutiny

The Detroit News reported that Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline, located under the Makinac Straits betweeen Lakes Huron and Michigan, underwent inspection last Thursday. The inspection began a day after the U.S. House of Representatives approved a four-year extension of a federal pipeline safety law. They added an additional rule which requires Enbridge to inspect the internal and external integrity of the Line 5 pipelines at least once a year.

The pipeline inspection is being conducted by a crew from Ballard Marine Construction, a firm based in Washington state. It’s expected to last a week long, and will assess the external integrity of the twin oil pipelines. Now 63 years old, Line 5 has come under increasing scrutiny by public and government alike since Enbridge’s Line 6B pipeline ruptured in the Kalamazoo River in 2010. Line 6B spilled 840 000 gallons of heavy crude during that incident, causing the largest inland oil spill in history. The Line 5 pipelines currently carry 540 000 barrels of oil and liquid natural gas each day.

The crew used an autonomous underwater vehicle and a remote-operated vehicle to take sonar scans and video images of the pipeline’s exterior. Once the images are received, the crew assesses them to see if there are any areas of corrosion, obstructions like rope or wire, or loose anchoring.

According to Chris Bauer, operations manager for Ballard Marine, the images help Enbridge ensure that there’s no more than a 75-foot span between each anchor that supports the pipeline. None of the anchors have ever been replaced. However, he insists the pipeline is in good working order. “From our point of view, that pipe, it’s unbelievable how good of shape that pipe is in,” Bauer told The Detroit News.

Enbridge, a company based out of Alberta, conducts the external inspection every two years and is required to do internal inspections every five years. The company maintains they test the thickness of the pipe walls more frequently than that. However, those commitments may not be enough for public and politicians.

On Wednesday June 8, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a four-year extension of the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act. Included in the approved law was a a rule which would require pipelines under 150 feet of water to be inspected annually. At 290 feet down, Line 5 would have to be inspected internally and externally every year to meet the requirement.

U.S. Representative Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, helped to secure the annual inspection requirement after she introduced a separate bill calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation to perform its own inspection within 18 months. If the department does conduct its own analysis and the federal government finds the pipeline a risk to “life, property, or the environment,” their inspection could be used to shut Line 5 down.

Miller stated her case directly on the House floor. “There is zero room for error in the Great Lakes,” Miller said. “There’s a 62-year-old pipeline that is called Line 5 that runs under the Straits of Mackinac, which is right in between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. Any rupture there would be very, very difficult, if not impossible, to contain.”

To see the full article from The Detroit News, click here.

To see the PIPES Act, click here.

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