CODE RED: Enbridge repeatedly violating water protection rules; MNDNR fails to act

September 30, 2021


In a shocking report by Minnesota licensed geologist Jeffrey Brosberg, evidence shows that Enbridge, its contractors, consultants and “independent” inspectors have been repeatedly violating water withdrawal permits and the Environmental Montitor Control Plan, minimizing severe problems with Line 3 tar sands pipeline construction, and taking advantage of the State of Minnesota’s lack of regulatory oversight.

Brosberg submitted the report to White Earth attorney Frank Bibeau on September 22, 2021 outlining the problems and the failure of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR) and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to respond adequately or in a timely manner. According to the report, Enbridge ruptured an artesian aquifer first in January, 2021 and again the following month, causing water to well up in the trench beside the pipeline:

“The ruptured aquifer welled up with water along in the deep trench of the petroleum pipeline, and the aquifer started to lose its natural flow in the springs, and is losing the flow into the rare calcareous fens. The uncontrolled groundwater flow and the pipeline springs have continued unabated for eight months.

“Eight months of large volume flows from a ruptured regional aquifer are now exceeding 100,000 gallons per day, depleting the aquifer, reducing the hydraulic head threatening groundwater-dependent ecosystems. Frac-outs have a yet undefined risk to aquifers and surface water resources, and massive water withdrawals during extreme drought may impact both aquifers and surface waters. The attached chronology was compiled from Permit history, the MNDNR timeline in the Clearbrook Restoration Order, the Clearbrook Remedial Action Plan, the frac-outs, and amended Water Appropriation Permits. As an experienced environmental risk manager, I see the public documents as sanitized versions of a severe violation and a complete failure to protect our water resources.”

In a press conference yesterday conducted by White Earth Tribal members in Clearbrook, MN near the aquifer breach sites, Indigenous Environmental Network’s Ron Turney described the destruction and demanded immediate shut down:

On September 16, 2021, eight months after the initial aquifer breach and after 24.2 million gallons of artesian water had already flowed out of the aquifer, the MNDNR issued a Restoration and Replacement Order to fix the rupture within 30 days and restore the fen. The MNDNR also fined Enbridge $3.32 million and referred the matter to the Clearwater County Attorney for criminal prosecution.

September 26, 2021: Water Protectors arrived at Camp Firelight along the Mississippi to check on the rising drilling fluids in the wetlands caused by Enbridge Line 3. According to Brosberg, recent rainfall may have added to the groundwater pressure causing the drilling fluids to rise weeks after HDD drilling was completed. Five drilling fluid releases were documented at this location, only two were reported to the MN Pollution Control Agency who’s in charge of Enbridge’s 401 Clean Water Permit.. Photo: Ron Turney
September 28, 2021: Massive Waste Containment Failure at Enbridge’s Line 3 Clearwater River crossing. Water Protectors have been monitoring the situation and there appears to be another aquifer breach with drill mud and groundwater rising from the drill pad. These waste holding tanks have been constructed, but they fill up fast and the excess is discharged onto the grass. A holding tank can be seen leaking today and was drained into the nearby woods thru straw bales. A blueish oily residue can be seen in the grass. Photo: Ron Turney

The following chronology of the permit violations and Minnesota regulatory agencies actions and inactions is based on research gathered from the MNDNR Restoration and Replacement Order, Barr Engineering Remedial Action Plan, Enbridge Environmental Monitoring Plan, Minnesota Well Index well logs, and Enbridge Dewatering Permit 2018.

Chronology of Violation and Regulatory Failure
Derived from MNDNR Violation History and Barr Flow Remediation Plan

Dec. 2019: Approval of Environmental Monitor Control Plan. Enbridge Energy Limited partnership – Line 3 Replacement Project.

December 28,2020: MNDNR issued Water Appropriations Permit 2018-3420 to Enbridge for 510,000,000 Gallons.

November 12, 2020: MNDNR issued Enbridge ”No Effect Concurrence” for excavation 8-10 feet deep that would have an impact on the hydrology of fen.

January 21, 2021: Enbridge abandons plans for shallow excavation due to existing pipelines and dug to 18 feet and ruptured artesian aquifer creating uncontrolled flow.

January 26, 2021: IEM noted “unmanageable dewatering conditions” and the need for SWPPP to direct new flow across the roadway.

February 2, 2021: Borehole excavation or entry pit encountered “excessive GW infiltration.”

February 8, 2021: 110-foot sheet pile wall installed within wetland dewatered with five wells, installed 50-foot long trench box in bore pit for “hot crossing” of existing pipelines.

Trench water discharged to dewatering bags and dewatering structures.

Enbridge installed Line 3 “hot crossing” of two pipelines in dewatered sheet pile and trench box area.

Uncontrolled flow area expands with the removal of the sheet pile wall.

February 20,2021: IBM notes “turbid water discharge for five well points.”

Discussed with the lead inspector, environmental monitor, and ERM technical director.

March 13, 2021: IEM documented sediment flow to wetlands and discussed with EITeam.

March 15, 2021: IEM and Lead Env Inspector conducted site review and documented 2″ of clay.

March 16, 2021: Enbridge “issued an unacceptable report for improper dewatering structure” No cleanup and continued pumping. “Following months,” according to MNDNR, Enbridge cleaned sediment from wetland but did not resolve uncontrolled flow. Failure to identify the problem as uncontrolled flow or aquifer rupture. No notifications of Level 2 modifications or need for amended permits.

June 4, 2021: MNDNR issues Amended Water Appropriations Permit #2018-3420 for 4,982,768,568 gallons, 9.8 times larger than the original permit request.

June 15, 2021: MNDNR staff discussed the potential for uncontrolled flow.

June 16,2021: MNDNR email to Enbridge requesting information on uncontrolled flow and restoration plan.

June 17, 2021: MNDNR noticed Enbridge not recommencing work at Clearbrook hot crossing until the uncontrolled flow plan was approved. (Note that the line segments were already completed by the time DNR sent notice.)

June 2021: Five unreported Frac-outs.

July 7, 2021: Merjent disclosed 3 .8 million gallons of uncontrolled flow since January and disclosed 45 ftX12 ft X18′ excavation and sheet pile installation. Response to 6-16 DNR request described as “findings of fact #13.”

July 8, 2021: Lead IBM and MNDNRR reviewed and summarized inspection reports to date and discovered the initial January 26 report and disclosure of completion of pipeline boring but no backfill due to uncontrolled flow.

July 8, 2021: Enbridge submitted Groundwater Investigation Plan to MNDNR for comment and review:

Enbridge reported a second surface emergence of uncontrolled flow from outside the former sheet pile area 60 feet northwest of the original uncontrolled flow.

Enbridge reported uncontrolled overland flow at ground level elevation 1339. Surface flow is 28 feet above the artesian aquifer.

Uncontrolled flow created the risk of bank sloughing, road overtopping, and water quality concerns from the release of turbid water

Enbridge reported uncontrolled flow reached a nearby stream

Uncontrolled flow extends from Milepost 909 .1 to 910

July 12, 2021: Enbridge submitted the revised GW Investigation Plan.

July 14, 2021: DNR informed Enbridge to deny the request to continue work in the area until the uncontrolled flow plan was approved.

July 27-August 4, 2021: Drilling 6 borings in area of uncontrolled flow. two borings penetrated the artesian aquifer.

July 2021: 19 unreported frac-outs.

August 1-4, 2021: Two unreported frac-outs.

August 5-August 21, 2021: water level monitoring.

August 9, 2021: MNDNR reveals 28 unreported frac-outs from June 1 to August 4.

August 15, 2021: Draft Remedial Action Plan for ruptured aquifer submitted to

August 17-18, 2021: Enbridge/Barr Final Remedial Action Plan report on an
uncontrolled flow mitigation plan. RAP shows fens are supported by upwelling artesian water
Uncontrolled flow is upgradient of fens. RAP proposes installing high-volume wells in the artesian aquifer to stop the flow at the surface and reduce upward pressure in the aquifer allowing grout injection into the ground to stop the flow.

September 6, 2021: Uncontrolled flow reported to be 24,200,000 gallons from
January 21 to September 5,227 days, (Avg flow of 106,608 gallons/day from an area measuring 1400 to 1650 square feet).

September 16, 2021: MNDNR Restoration and Replacement Order:
By October 16, 2021, complete all work to stop the uncontrolled flow.
Notify MNDNR Commissioner within 24 hours of completion.
By October 16, 2021, Enbridge, to report a revised estimate of water loss from March 19 to September 16, must continue groundwater monitoring following cessation of flow.
By October 16, 2021, submit Draft Calcareous Fen Management Plan for MNDNR review and approval.
By October 16, 2021, submit $250,000 in mitigation funds to MNDN for independent monitoring of calcareous fens.
By October 16, 2021, submit $300,000 in mitigation funds to MNDNR for initial mitigation of direct loss of groundwater resources.
By October 16, 2021. End of the appeal period.
By November 1, 2021, submit $2,750,000 on “one or more single order instruction escrows for the benefit of MNDNR to use at its sole discretion to provide funds to perform restoration actions” for fens and compensatory mitigation with conditions for withdrawal.
The order provides for the addition of escrow funds if necessary.
By December l, 2021, Enbridge must demonstrate that it has visually reinspected all locations across the entirety of Line 3 where Enbridge deviated from planned or permitted construction trench depths. Must identify additional unidentified breaches of artesian aquifers.
Monitor for uncontrolled flow for 12 months after cessation of uncontrolled flow.



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