“Water is the blood of our Earth Mother.” — Cecil Pavlat of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians
For all those kayaktivists and walkers who are attending the upcoming Pipe Out Paddle Protest and Walk rally at the Straits of Mackinac this Sunday and Monday, and those who can’t make it, but care deeply about protecting the Great Lakes, here’s a must-see video. Produced by the University of Michigan Water Center and the National Wildlife Federation, it projects the impact on the Straits area from a 12 hour spill over a twenty day period. (Note: the video is in various short segments: demonstrating a central break in the pipeline, and one at the north end, then the south end.)
And that’s just modeling a half day rupture. According to Oil and Water Don’t Mix, conservatively, at least one million gallons of oil are in the 62-year old double pipeline at any given time. Currently, Enbridge is pumping 540,000 barrels of oil per day, up from the previously allowed 490,000. At the time of the 2013 increase, retired DOW Chemical engineer Gary Street said that the 10 percent bump in volume will exert a 20 percent increase in pressure on the aging system. He explained to the Petoskey News: “That’s alarming. I’m really concerned about their integrity, and now you’re going to increase pressure on those lines.”
On July 15 of this year, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that Line 5’s “days are numbered.” Well that number is still counting, and Michigan is waiting.
Many have been waiting much, much longer though. At a rally held two years ago, Native American leaders expressed growing impatience. Cecil Pavlat of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians spoke passionately.
“We speak, but they don’t listen. Water is the blood of our Earth Mother.”
Invoking the Anishnabek tradition of tribal leaders thinking seven generations ahead about the impact of their decisions, Pavlat warned of the pending crisis with this plea: “If not soon, it will be too late”.
Enbridge insists their safety record on Line 5, also known as the Lakehead Pipeline, is outstanding. Beth Wallace of the National Wildlife Federation begs to differ. She is the author of a report titled Sunken Hazard: Aging oil pipelines beneath the Straits of Mackinac an ever-present threat to the Great Lakes. Wallace lists a number of significant incidents that have already occurred on the Lakehead Pipeline system. There was a spill in 1999 in Crystal Falls, Michigan in which 226,000 gallons spilled from line 5. Enbridge disposed of the oil by lighting it on fire. Here’s a partial list of spills on the Lakehead system that were hushed:
- July 2002: A pipeline in Itasca County, MN spilled 252,000 gallons of crude oil causing $5.6 million in damages
- Feb. 2003: Monroe County, MI where a 5,460 gallon spill caused a quarter million in damages
- Oct. 2003: Bay County, MI 21,000 gallons of crude spilled
- Jan. 2005: Another Bay County spill of 4,200 gallons
- Jan. 2007: A leak in Wisconsin spilled 50,000 gallons on farmland
- Nov. 2007: Oil and gas from a ruptured line ignited near Clearbrook, MN, killing two workers. Enbridge was fined $2.4 million for failing to follow safety rules.
- Jan. 2010: 126,000 gallons were leaked in Neche, North Dakota
- July 2010: A ruptured pipeline near Marshall, MI dumped one million gallons into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.
- Sept. 2010: a broken pipeline near Chicago spilled 250,000 gallons of oil
- July 2012: In Grand Marsh, WI, a rupture sprayed 50,000 gallons onto a farm, including the home and livestock.
And that’s just a short list of the 80 spills the federal government has documented on the Enbridge Pipeline since 2001.
Time to shut it down!