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Michigan Oil Spill Pipeline Has More Problems, Lawmaker Says

Aug 9, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

The Enbridge Inc. pipeline responsible for the Michigan oil spill is in bad shape, according to one lawmaker. According to a report in the Detroit Free Press, US Rep. Candice Miller (R-10th District) has charged that the pipeline has other weak spots, including some that are even closer to Lake Michigan than the section that ruptured last month.

The pipeline, known as 6B, carries oil from Indiana to a refinery at Sarnia, Michigan. According to Miller, Enbridge’s own 2009 assessment of 6B found more than 200 anomalies between mile posts 650 and 753. Last month’s rupture occurred at mile post 608, roughly 80 miles from Lake Michigan.

While Enbridge reduced the maximum pressure of the pipeline in the area with anomalies, the company has not yet made necessary repairs, Miller said.

“While we were fortunate the spill of July 26th did not reach the Great Lakes, we would likely not be so fortunate should the pipeline rupture in sensitive areas near Lake St. Clair or even under the St. Clair River which provides the drinking water for millions of our citizens,” she said in a statement.

Miller called on the federal agency that regulates oil pipelines to immediately inspect the entire 6B pipeline.

The Michigan oil spill occurred sometime between the evening of July 25 and the morning of the July 26 when the 30-inch pipe ruptured along on a creek near Enbridge’s pump station in Marshall. The rupture spilled more than 800,000 gallons of oil into the creek, which made its way into the Kalamazoo River, and threatened to reach Lake Michigan. Dozens of homes had to be evacuated due to air quality concerns, and residents living near the section of river where it occurred were advised to use bottled water.

As we’ve reported previously, Enbridge was notified twice this year of potential problems involving old pipe prone to rupturing and an inadequate system for monitoring internal corrosion. In January, the U. .S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PMHSA) sent a warning letter to the company stating that corrosion monitoring in its oil pipeline connecting the U.S. to Canada did not comply with federal regulations. The PHMSA didn’t penalize the company, but the agency advised it to correct the problem, the Free Press said.

According to The Wall Street Journal, since 2002, Enbridge has received more than a dozen warnings or citations for violating safety and other standards and fined tens of thousands of dollars as a result, according to a review of correspondence maintained by the PMHSA.

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