Six Years after Enbridge Oil Disaster near Kalamazoo, Risky Pipeline under Great Lakes Threatens Michigan Communities, Wildlife

On the six-year anniversary of the Enbridge oil disaster near Kalamazoo, MI, NWF is calling on Michigan leaders to follow through on commitments to shut down risky 63-year-old pipelines

Ann Arbor, MI – On the six-year anniversary of the Enbridge oil disaster near Kalamazoo, Mich.—the worst inland oil disaster in U.S. history—the National Wildlife Federation is calling on Michigan leaders to follow through on commitments to shut down risky 63-year-old pipelines on the lake bottom of the Great Lakes at the Straits of Mackinac, as well as provide strong protections for all pipelines in the state.

The Mackinac Straits pipelines are operated by Enbridge Energy, the same company responsible for the Kalamazoo disaster, which spilled more than 840,000 gallons of oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River—contaminating more than 30 miles of the river and causing dozens of people to evacuate their homes and preventing even more people from drinking their water.

“On this day six years ago, citizens of Michigan woke up to a disaster that is still ongoing, and our job is to make sure that we protect our communities and natural resources from ever having to experience that again,” said Mike Shriberg, the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes regional executive director.

Footage taken by Enbridge from 2012 of the twin pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac show parts of the pipelines with rust, cracked coating, and debris—in contrast to Enbridge Energy’s repeated claim that the pipelines that were designed for a 50-year lifespan are “as good as new.”

View the footage:

In 2013 the National Wildlife Federation sent divers to look at the twin pipelines, revealing that the pipelines were unsupported in various locations—a violation of the company’s easement.

The National Wildlife Federation’s call to action comes days after the U.S. government reached a settlement with Enbridge on the company’s 2010 disaster which has been widely viewed as insufficient to deter future disasters, and as the state of Michigan assesses the risk the twin pipelines pose to the state. Enbridge’s response to the Kalamazoo spill was compared to the Keystone Cops by a National Transportation Safety Board spokesperson while releasing a blistering report about Enbridge’s safety record.

Research released earlier this year by the University of Michigan shows that more than 700 miles of Michigan shoreline are at risk from a potential spill in the Straits of Mackinac—a place the lead researcher has called the “worst possible place for an oil spill” in the Great Lakes due to the strong and unpredictable currents where Lakes Michigan and Huron meet.

In 2015 Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, speaking about the twin pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac, said that “Its days are numbered.” The state’s pipeline task force has commissioned two reports looking into the risk the pipelines pose and alternatives to them, which are expected to be completed in 2017.

“Some places are too special to risk—and the Great Lakes is one of them,” said Shriberg. “It’s time to protect all of our communities, drinking water, and wildlife from pipeline disasters. The company responsible for the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history is not a trustworthy steward of the world’s most important freshwater resource.”

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