Enbridge Line 5 Work Plan Raises Environmental Group Concern Over Coating

"The line is in very good shape and the coating is in good shape," Enbridge spokesperson Ryan Duffy said.

The owners of the pipeline running through the Straits of Mackinac insist Line 5 is still in good shape, but a work plan on their website has sparked new concerns.

Enbridge submitted their investigation work plan to the Environmental Protection Agency in September and now local environmental groups are taking a closer look, not pleased with what they’re seeing.

9 & 10’s Blayke Roznowski and photojournalist Noah Jurik have more details on the work plan and why it’s causing a stir.

Jennifer McKay at the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council says she was on Enbridge’s website when she ran across the Biota Investigation Work Plan.

That’s when she says concerns were raised.

"I printed it off and read it and there was some concerning language in it," McKay said. 

That concerning language particularly being a term "holiday."

The work plan defined the holidays as areas of the pipeline where there is a loss of coating around the pipe.

"If the coating has been damaged or is missing, that potentially means there could be corrosion and subsequently a greater likelihood of a failure or a leak in the Straits of Mackinac," McKay said.

The work plan includes charts showing yellow circles along the line marked as holiday areas but Enbridge says there are not actually any holiday areas on Line 5. 

"At different places in the plan the term holiday is used, but we don’t know of any places on the coating right now anywhere along the line where there are gaps or breaks or anything like that in the coating," Duffy said.

Enbridge says the coating on the pipeline is in great shape and the proposed plan is part of regular inspections, following up on a 2014 report that showed no damage to the pipeline from aquatic organisms. 

"It’s been doing exactly what it was intended to do and what it’s always done," Duffy said. "This is really the gold standard in the industry of coatings." 

"The risk of a pipeline failure is very low, but the consequence is extremely high," McKay said.

McKay says they plan to discuss the work plan at the next Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board meeting in March.

Enbridge says they will also be there to answer questions.