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Enbridge downplayed significance of Line 5 damage, says state official

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent.
Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan
Parts of the coating on the Line 5 oil pipelines were damaged while workers installed safety anchors.

Michigan’s energy chief says Enbridge downplayed the significance of damage to the protective coating on its oil and gas pipeline that runs under the Mackinac Straits.

Parts of the coating were removed while workers installed safety anchors on a portion of Line 5 that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

The patches where the metal was scraped bare are close to a foot in diameter. That's much larger than Enbridge initially reported.

Valerie Brader directs the Michigan Agency for Energy and co-chairs the state Pipeline Safety Advisory Board.

She says there is no immediate threat to the Great Lakes.

“But certainly the scraping off of protective coating, especially if it occurred during the installation of a safety measure, is completely unacceptable and should have been immediately repaired," Brader said.

The company was too slow to repair the damage, according to Brader, and she called for them to move quickly to remedy the situation.

“But, in addition, I’m just disappointed that something that was described to the public as the size of a Band-Aid is, instead, obviously much different and much more serious," Brader added. 

The discovery was made after state officials looked at photos of the damage provided by Enbridge. 

The company says repairs and further inspections of Line 5 should begin next week.

In full disclosure, Enbridge is a financial supporter of Michigan Radio.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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