Study Outlines Potential Great Lakes Disaster If Line 5 Were To Rupture

Independent analysis looks at "worst-case" scenario oil spill

July 19, 2018 - 2:03 pm

LANSING (WWJ) - A new, independent analysis of a potential oil spill from the Enbridge Energy Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac says more than 400 miles of shoreline in Michigan, Wisconsin and Canada could be impacted.

The "worst-case" scenario put together by a Michigan Tech University professor, and given to state officials this week, involves a rupture to both Straits pipelines and failures of other valves.

The 396-page draft report says between 32,000 and 58,000 barrels of crude oil would spill into the Great Lakes if the "worst case" were to happen. And, depending on the timing and magnitude of a spill, 47 wildlife species of concern and 60,000 acres of unique habitat could be at risk.

The report -- which looked at more than 4,000 simulations -- calculates clean-up, restoration and liability costs from the defined worst-case scenario at almost $2 billion. 

“Line 5 cannot remain in the Straits in its current form,” said Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director and Pipeline Safety Advisory Board co-chair Keith Creagh, in a media release. “This report highlights the need to continue developing a decommissioning strategy that protects the Great Lakes while at the same time maintaining the critical infrastructure between Michigan’s peninsulas that makes us one state.” 

A public meeting on the report, which does not include the probability of a spill, will take place at 6 p.m. on Monday, August 13. at Boyne Highlands Convention Center in Harbor Springs. A final report will be submitted to the state on September 15.