Citizens demand independent investigation as Enbridge Line 5 leaks in Wisconsin and Line 3 aquifer breach in Minnesota ruptures again

August 12, 2022

Water protector communities call on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for independent investigations of Enbridge pipeline fails

Ashland, Wisconsin

On August 4, 2022 the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported that an Enbridge contractor discovered oil-contaminated soil along the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline just south of the City of Ashland. The soil is about a mile west of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Reservation. The Tribe is currently in litigation with the foreign multi-national oil corporation to remove their pipelines from the Bad River watershed.

Mike Wiggins Jr: “Deep Blue under Earth drinking water aquifers look like they are reaching out but they are actually pouring down and pouring in. Wispy areas are where surface waters and groundwater’s interact, and it’s hardly a place for Earth destroyers. Water is life.” Map courtesy Mike Wiggins, Jr.

According to the DNR press release, Enbridge officials told DNR staff that the contamination was from a “historical discharge” (a past spill that continued leaching into contaminated soil) and not an ongoing release. The Ashland Daily Press reported that Juli Kellner, a communications specialist with Enbridge, said crews discovered “about a tablespoon of product.”

By the end of the week there were 10 vehicles onsite and excavation work in process. Eyewitnesses have estimated several thousand pounds of dirt were removed.

On August 11, photos show Enbridge welding sleeves on the old pipes, indicating that it is not a “historical discharge”:

Photos and video: David Joe Bates

Work went on throughout the night. According to April Holdren, Enbridge official, the line was shut down while repairs were being made and was reopened on August 12.

Minnesota

On August 1, 2022 citizen monitors discovered a new leak on a repair Enbridge claimed to have made after construction activities on Line 3 breached an aquifer in 2021. An estimated 9.8 million gallons of water have already been lost in the breach of the LaSalle aquifer. Tribal members, community groups, and concerned scientists are calling for the EPA and the USACE to launch independent investigations, and for Minnesota Governor Tim Walz to hold Enbridge accountable and ensure that waters are protected.

Enbridge’s history of downplaying leaks and delaying reporting

Fort Atkinson
In 2019 when an Enbridge pipeline leaked in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, Enbridge waited 15 months from the time they became aware of the leak to the time they reported it to the Wisconsin DNR.

The spill first came to the public’s attention in 2021. Members of the Jefferson County Local Emergency Planning Committee learned that a product called diluent, used to thin petroleum products as they travel through pipelines, had been released in a much larger quantity than the company reported in earlier correspondence. Enbridge officials initially stated the spill to be about 1.35 gallons, too little to necessitate a spill report to the DNR. Later, Enbridge officials claimed it was closer to 1,218 gallons, which would have required a notification to the DNR. On March 26, 2021 Enbridge issued a statement that it was a “small historic release.”

In reality, the pipeline spilled 7,900 gallons which polluted wells and contaminated at least 130 tons of soil. Toxic chemicals have been detected in groundwater at thousands of times the state limits, according to a report filed by the DNR. Massive remediation is still ongoing in August 2022.

Clearbrook, Minnesota
In January 2021, Enbridge crews working on the new pipeline near Clearbrook ignored their stated plans of digging a trench 8 to 10 feet deep, and dug down 18 feet instead. They proceeded to drive sheet piling down even deeper to “stabilize the soil” and in the process, punctured the soil layer covering the aquifer, causing groundwater to flow to the surface.

Enbridge failed to report the breach to the Minnesota DNR, and it wasn’t until June 2021 that the DNR was forced by citizen monitors who brought forth the evidence to deal with the problem. In September, the agency ordered Enbridge to pay $3.32 million for failing to follow environmental laws and gave them one month to stop the flow of groundwater and restore the site. Enbridge missed that deadline.

The Minnesota DNR also determined that Enbridge Energy violated Minnesota Statute 103G.141, subdivision 1, which makes it a crime to appropriate “waters of the state without previously obtaining a permit from the commissioner.” The DNR referred this matter to the Clearwater County Attorney for prosecution.

Willow River, Aitken County, Minnesota
On August 10, 2021 the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) released a report saying there had been more frack outs of drilling fluid spilled along Line 3 than Enbridge had previously reported. The state water permit issued to Enbridge for Line 3 construction did not authorize the release of drilling fluid to a wetland or river. Between June 8 and August 5, 2021 Enbridge construction created 28 releases at 12 river crossings, with 13 spills into wetlands and 14 in upland areas. In one of those cases about 80 gallons of fluid entered the Willow River which was discovered by citizen monitors.

Fond Du Lac Reservation
In September 2021, Enbridge crews discovered an aquiver breach on Line 3 on the western border of the Fond du Lac Reservation in Minnesota. The Minnesota DNR released a statement about the breach to the public in March 2022, at which time the breach had already leaked 219 million gallons of water. The Band said the breach is discharging water within the reservation boundaries upstream of Dead Fish Lake and flow could violate the Band’s water quality standards and impact its wild rice waters. During a breach, soil is upset, and along with the shifting water table can result in the release of mercury, rust and other harmful substances. The reservation is currently under an advisory to boil their water although this has not been confirmed to be directly related to the breach.

Enbridge cannot be trusted to self monitor

Enbridge should not be trusted to monitor themselves. Million-dollar fines are calculated as a cost of doing business, leaving behind damaged aquifers, contaminated soil, poisoned wells, millions of gallons of water wasted, and remediation projects that cost millions of dollars and take years to complete.

Last summer, Enbridge paid millions to local Minnesota law enforcement agencies and in return received their own militia. Hundreds of concerned citizens were arrested while protesting the danger of pipelines, Enbridge’s history of environmental devastation, and the regulatory capture of local, state and federal elected officials by the petroleum industry. Yet Enbridge has yet to face a day in court for their crimes against the environment.

In light of Enbridge’s history of downplaying the extent and severity of pipeline mishaps, citizens are calling for the EPA and the USACE to conduct independent investigations. Bad River Chairman Mike Wiggins concurs with the call for an independent investigation before Line 5 fails again, if it’s not too late already.

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One Comment on “Citizens demand independent investigation as Enbridge Line 5 leaks in Wisconsin and Line 3 aquifer breach in Minnesota ruptures again”

  1. recubejim August 12, 2022 at 7:36 pm #

    Enbridge Lies

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