Line 5 coating is failing, says independent report

Mar 12, 2017

A state commission is meeting in Lansing Monday to learn more about the condition of a controversial oil pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac. 

The Pipeline Safety Advisory Board wants to hear Enbridge Energy’s plans to address deterioration on parts of Line 5.  An independent report finds nearly 20 sites along the pipeline where an anti-corrosive coating is deteriorating.

“The metal is fatigued, the coating is de-laminated, and it’s got stuff growing on it that promotes corrosion,” says Dr. Edward Timm, a retired professional engineer and the author of the report.  “This is bad, and it needs to be studied in a way that gets right to the bottom of the problem.”

Line 5 was built in 1953.  Opponents are calling on Enbridge to shut it down to avoid a spill in the straits.  In 2010, an Enbridge pipeline ruptured near Marshall, causing the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history.

The pipeline carries about 540,000 barrels of oil each day beneath the Straits of Mackinac. 

Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Chairman Aaron Payment says the pipeline’s condition endangers his tribe’s legally protected water usage rights.

“We believe that the lack of attention on this issue has threatened that agreement,” Payment says.  “And so, I’m all about trying to protect our natural resources and our right to hunt and fish and gather pursuant to legal agreements that we entered into with the state and federal government.”

The Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board is expected to release a study of Enbridge Line 5 in June.