Enbridge Conducts Oil Spill Exercise in Straits of Mackinac

What would happen on the Straits of Mackinac in the event of an oil spill?

It’s something Enbirdge wanted to find out by holding an oil spill exercise on the Straits today.

The pipeline running through the Straits, Line 5, carries light crude oil.

It’s been getting a lot of attention lately with environmental groups concerned about a spill.

The Department of Environmental Quality has made several suggestions to Enbridge, which include doing more exercises like the one today.

9 & 10’s Blayke Roznowski and photojournalist Erin Malone have more details on the exercise and how it helps everyone be prepared.

"It’s highly unlikely, but it’s an oil release at depth in the Straits of Mackinac and every one is working the problem right now with all the agencies," Enbridge senior manager for emergency and security management Stephen Lloyd said.

This is called a functional oil response exercise in the Straits of Mackinac.

"The specific scenario we used here was to put pressure on the command post and that’s really what the key message is. What do you create so people are feeling like this is a real incident?" Lloyd said.

Boats and booms out on the water to simulate capturing a 4,500 barrel oil release.

Crews were on the shore practicing containment and recovery.

"What we’re doing is exercising some equipment and manpower and boats," Escanaba Pipeline maintenance supervisor Mike Paradise said. "We’ve got numerous types of boom that we’re experimenting with. We’ve got oil skimmers that are components that actually retrieve the oil once we corral it."

Running these drills and being prepared for situations is vital.

"Not only does it give all the agencies involved a chance to participate and manage a response, but it gives our people, our subcontractors, experience deploying equipment, operating it," Marine Pollution Control president Charlie Usher said. "Nothing like practice to get you ready for a real event."

The DEQ recently issued suggestions to ensure safe pipeline operations, and doing more exercises like this was one of them.

"There’s things we can control and there’s things we can’t control," DEQ communications director Brad Wurfel said. "One of the things we can control is being prepared."