What happens if Enbridge Line 5 breaks

September 27, 2019 by Barbara With

With the growing concern about deteriorating Enbridge pipeline Line 5 running through the Bad River Indian Reservation, many are wondering what exactly would happen if the pipeline breaks. Enbridge, operating without a permit and being sued by the Bad River Tribe to decommission the line before something catastrophic occurs, has refused to shut off their compromised line.

Photo of 25-40 feet of Enbridge Line 5 pipe unsupported and exposed to the elements at the Denomie Creek tributaries on the Bad River Reservation

To understand the danger the region is currently in and why Bad River has put their emergency services on alert, we must look at other Enbridge spills, how Enbridge responded to those spills, and how they affected the land, water and people of the areas that were damaged.

Kalamazoo River
One of the biggest major spills closest to Lake Superior is the Kalamazoo River, when in 2010 Line 6B oil pipeline spilled 1.1 million gallons of tar sands oil into the river.

As with Line 5, Enbridge knew the pipes were compromised. Mark Shauer, former U.S. congressman said:

The cruel irony is we knew this pipeline had defects right in that section where it ruptured over Talmage Creek. We knew that. But the federal regulatory agency at the time did not require them to rest them. We also know where Line 5 runs under the Straits of Mackinac.”

Enbridge pipeline that ruptured and contaminated the Kalamzoo River. Photo: NWF Great Lakes

According to a 2016 National Academy of Sciences study, diluted bitumen, or dilbit, differs from conventional crude oil. Dilbit is not the standard flowing oil, but instead contains highly volatile chemicals that dissolve the asphalt tar and allow it to flow through the pipeline. Dilbit sinks in water, coating plants, animals and the bottom of waterways with the tar and chemicals.

Standard cleanup techniques are not effective. There are no reliably effective ways to clean up dilbit at present, and it cannot be guaranteed that such methods will soon be developed.

The Kalamazoo spill forced nearby residents to flee their homes, and over 300 people suffered from immediate illness due to chemicals in the air. Almost sixty percent of people living near the spill experienced respiratory, gastrointestinal, and neurological symptoms consistent with acute exposure to benzene and other petroleum-related chemicals. Long-term health effects are unknown.

A painted turtle covered with oil from the 2010 Enbridge oil spill in Marshall, Mich. Photo July 29, 2010, by David Kenyon, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

FOR TWO YEARS, 35 miles of the Talmadge Creek were completely off-limits to people. Then after that, there were additional areas that had to be closed off as more contamination was found and more clean up had to be done. There was fear of the Canadian tar sands oil and the chemicals eventually hitting Lake Michigan.

Graphic: NWF Great Lakes

Whistleblower John Bolenbaugh’s truth telling forced Enbridge to re-clean several dozen areas that had been approved as 100% clean by Enbridge, the EPA and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. His exposure forced the EPA to demand that Enbridge re-clean the covered up areas and re-dredge the river at an estimated cost of $600,000,000. According to The Dilbit Disaster: Inside the Biggest Oil Spill You’ve never Heard Of, as of 2016, the Kalamazoo spill was the most expensive cleanup in U.S. history—more than $750,000,000.

In 2017, seven years later, of the 35 miles of the rivers that were damaged, only three miles were approved for “no further action.”

Officials are continuing to monitor the drinking water around the spill, looking for the dangerous chemicals found in tar sands oil, including petroleum based hydrocarbons.

Graphic: NWF Great Lakes

Lake Superior. Bad River and the Chequamegon Bay
Bad River tribal staff and technical experts have been directed to prepare for emergency management response. While this oil is not tar sands, they are preparing to possibly have to deal with millions of gallons of oil running through the wetlands of the Penokee watershed and across the Bad River reservation. It will smother the plants and animals of the Kakagon Sloughs, and destroy the wild rice beds. It will leach into the ground water of the entire region, including that of Madeline Island, whose water supply originates in the Penokee hills.

Bad River Watershed

When it reaches Lake Superior, it will quickly cover all fish, aquatic animals and vegetation with tar. Clean up could take years and cost billions.

The chemicals will begin making people and animals sick. Elderly, sick and children will be the first to experience the degenerating affects.  Residents might not be able to return home for a long time.

This scenario is what Bad River is preparing to face. We need every citizen—especially those who live in the Lake Superior basin—to take action to prevent this very real possibility from happening. We need our Town and County boards to also be on board with emergency preparedness for such a possible disaster.

Every citizens who lives around the bay is being called on to contact your local officials—town and county boards, elected state and US senators and representatives— and demand action to get Line 5 shut down immediately. Inform your friends and neighbors of the state of emergency that the region is under. Come together as community members in your own town halls and together do your part to make sure this never happens.

An informational meeting about all of Enbridge pipelines in the region will be held October 1 at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center beginning at 5:30, hosted by Mike Wiggins Jr and the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. The meeting will be live streamed as well.


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5 Comments on “What happens if Enbridge Line 5 breaks”

  1. Michele Bourdieu September 27, 2019 at 3:35 pm #

    Barbara, do I have your permission to post this on Keweenaw Now? Michele

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

    • Barbara With September 27, 2019 at 3:36 pm #

      Yes thank you

  2. Joe bender September 28, 2019 at 1:17 am #

    Side note : bad river Is nowhere, in wildest possible dreams ready to deal with and respond to possibly millions of gallons of oil. Don’t let the report fool anyone. Bad river has no clue how to deal with a spill. No active monitoring, ( word of mouth ), no containment plan, ppl trained in a live liquid spill, and mostly important, no equipment even close to anything necessary to fight a pipeline catastrophe. Bad river talks a good game, but it shows how serious the tribe is in ACTUALLY preventing a disaster.

    • Barbara With September 28, 2019 at 10:52 am #

      I can only speculate, but perhaps part of Bad River’s emergency strategy is to be prepared to tell people to evacuate. What community does have the means to handle something this catastrophic? Sadly, they are two steps ahead of the game, as my town of La Pointe on Madeline Island does not seem to be aware that the threat even exists. As I make them aware, we realize that we, too, are seriously lacking in having anywhere near the training and emergency services that can handle this.

      Kudos to Mike for screaming FIRE in the burning building.That would be more than Enbridge did in Superior, when many of the people living around the accident had no idea they were in an evacuation zone and the real dangers they faced in case of, in their case, an explosion. What were the odds there?

  3. Melissa King September 28, 2019 at 3:48 am #

    Arnold and racketeerdsexually abusing, police assault and imprisonment for exploiting and sexual abuse children to empower selves socially.legally financially for theft tribal.tesources including us women veteran and native officials activists family they and Wyandotte rely upon works and family for Hixton sand frac pipelune, wolf river for drug support as our unlawful representatives,including their sinaloa and medicare Medicaid drugs, fraud for control too, through hooked family members they made and keepminnthat state. Connery/ Conery is CVSO Dan Connery and Ken Adi Sally Lori and chris ring fake psychic drug using and ops associates maintenancing our children for themselves and city/countu housing / CDA section 8 with Conway Conrad and parisi, caravello, ermilio Bradley Heidt relatives
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    Amelia Doris Poulton
    JUNE 29, 1933 – APRIL 11, 2018
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    Amelia Little Sam Poulton, 84, of Texarkana, TX. passed away Wednesday, April 11, 2018 in a local hospital. She was born June 29, 1933 in Lacrosse, WI. Mrs. Poulton was a proud elite elder of the Ho-Chunk Nation. She was a volunteer for various senior citizen programs and strongly supported paralyzed veterans organizations. She was a supporter for St. Josephs Indian School and St. Judes Children’s Hospital. She was a member of St. Lukes United Methodist Church. She was an avid bowler and participated in the Pro Am. Amelia was affectionately known as Memaw and Mimi by the numerous children she cared for.

    Preceded in death by her husband Orval C. Poulton and parents William Austin Little Sam and Maude Minnie Red Eagle Little Sam of Oakdale, WI.; one brother Will Little Sam; three sisters Loretta Arnold of Texarkana, Bennora Darnell of Madison, WI and Geraldine Conery of Nekoosa, WI.

    Survived by a son and daughter-in-law Russell and Linda Poulton of Texarkana; two granddaughters Rusti Poulton and Olivia Garcia both of Texarkana; three grandsons Charles Bilimek of Texarkana, Stanley Bilimek of Dallas, TX. and Clifton Poulton; 10 great grandchildren and two great great grandchildren; plus other numerous nieces and nephews.

    Family will receive friends from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, April 13, 2018 at East Funeral Home-Downtown.

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    Burial to follow in Red Eagle Cemetery, Oakdale, WI.

    In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to St. Lukes United Methodist Church or any of the various organizations that she supported.

    Condolences may be left at http://www.eastfuneralhomes.com

    Orval C. Poulton, Husband (deceased)
    William Austin Little Sam and Maude Minnie Red Eagle Little Sam, Parents (deceased)
    Will Little Sam, Brother (deceased)
    Loretta Arnold, Sister (deceased)
    Bennora Darnell, Sister (deceased)
    Geraldin Conery, Sister (deceased)
    Russell and Linda Poulton, Son and daughter-in-law
    Rusti Poulton, Granddaughter
    Olivia Garcia, Granddaughter
    Charles Bilimek, Grandson
    Stanley Bilimek, Grandson
    Clifton Poulton, Grandson
    10 grandchildren, two great grandchildren
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    Visitation Friday, April 13, 2018
    Funeral Service Tuesday, April 17, 2018
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    Kip Poulton
    April 21, 2019

    GREAT AND Great Great Granddaughters

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    Great granddaughter

    Kipp Poulton
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    Kipp Poulton
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    Kipp Poulton
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    Kipp Poulton
    April 20, 2018

    Kipp Poulton
    April 20, 2018

    Kipp Poulton
    April 20, 2018

    Kipp Poulton
    April 20, 2018


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