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Dwarfing the Huntington Beach spill

To the editor:

Aging oil pipelines in Huntington Beach, California, and the Straits of Mackinac are beyond their expected safe lifetimes. Both are run by companies with histories of safety breaches, and both have anchor strikes occurring from the busy shipping lanes above the pipelines. Enbridge’s deteriorating Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac that transports Canadian oil across Michigan to Canada has recently experienced at least three anchor strikes. Anchor strikes on Line 5 are more likely now that the pipe is suspended above the lake bottom. In fact, this is the most serious threat to the double pipes of Line 5.

Line 5 extends far beyond the open water of the Straits across streams and wetlands that feed the Great Lakes. The 2010 Enbridge Kalamazoo, Michigan oil spill occurred in a stream and leaked for 17 hours, spilling 840,000 gallons of crude oil into the river. Investigators suspect the Huntington Beach pipeline was dislodged and damaged by an anchor strike that leaked at least three hours, spilling an estimated 144,000 gallons of oil. Pipelines are an efficient way to transport oil but in waterways, they create disasters.

Pacific communities can push the oil down the coast to dilute the damage, but we can’t push spilled oil away. Clean up in the Great Lakes is nearly impossible. Depending on currents, winds, and ice cover, 700 miles of coastline could be ruined. Since Line 5 pumps under pressure, the oil leak will continue to flow from the break after the valve is off. A team at Michigan Tech estimated the spill could be 2.5 million gallons. Line 5 threatens our economy, quality of life, and 20% of the world’s fresh surface water. The State of Michigan terminated the 1953 easement for Line 5 in May, but Enbridge has disregarded this legal action.

Enbridge may value its oil over our water, but we cannot afford to. We have access to a huge network of oil pipelines that can supply the oil we currently use, but we depend on the Great Lakes water being clean and usable. If that water is contaminated, we cannot replace it. Line 5 must go without further delays.

U.P. Propane Research Team: Gene Champagne, Marge Forslin, Rosemary Grier, Mary Pelton Cooper Horst Schmidt, Gary Street.

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