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Enbridge defends its Line 5 pipeline

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World Pipelines,

On 13 March, Enbridge Energy presented on and defended the safety of its Line 5 pipeline to the Michigan Pipeline Safety Advisory Board.

The 64 year old Line 5 pipeline runs along the bed of Lake Michigan, near the Mackinac Bridge. It splits in two 20 in. lines as it runs beneath waterways connecting Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.

According to news sources, Enbridge stated that despite recent reports indicating coating failures and other potential problems, the pipeline is structurally safe, with just an outer layer of coating being worn away in some places.

As cited by the Detroit Metro Times, a document sent to the Environmental Protection Agency by Enbridge in September explained that visual surveys and biotic sample collection found so-called “holidays,” which it described as “limited numbers of areas of the pipeline where there is a loss of coating around the pipe.”

The presentation came after Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh, and Department of Environmental Quality Director Heidi Grether ordered Enbridge Energy to explain its description of ‘holidays’ in the external coating of the underwater steel pipelines, according to The Detroit News.

However, during the presentation, Brad Shamla, Vice President of US Operations for Liquid Pipelines at Enbridge Energy, told reporters before the presentation: "If there was ever a time when we weren't 100% confident in its fitness, we wouldn't be operating the pipeline."

According to Shamla, the document submitted in September identified areas of deterioration in an outer fibre wrap that was used during installation of a coal tar enamel coating and inner fibre wrap. He added that Enbridge Energy is not aware of any instances where the enamel coating has failed but is aware of some areas where the outer wrap has come loose.

Kurt Baraniecki, Director for Integrity Programs with Enbridge told the Board: “This pipeline is in as good a condition as it was the day it was installed. Our corrosion prevention system is doing its job. Our monitoring efforts are effective.”

While the company has no immediate plans to repair the wrap, Enbridge Energy will hydrostatically test the pipelines in June, stated Shamla. In order to test the pipes' integrity, the company will temporarily displace all oil with water and increase the pressure.

Meanwhile, opponents to the pipeline argue that the line should be shut down.

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