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Enbridge says it will expedite removal of broken drilling rod from Straits of Mackinac

work being done under Mackinac bridge
Work being done during an inspection of Line 5 in the Straits in 2016.

Enbridge has told state officials it's going to pick up broken equipment from the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac ahead of schedule.

Back in September, Enbridge was taking rock and sediment samples at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. That’s when a 45-foot piece of equipment known as a grout rod – or a drilling rod – broke off at the bottom of the Straits.

Joseph Haas, District Supervisor of the Gaylord District Office at the Water Resources Division with the state’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, says the state wants the company to pick up the debris.

“This is state-owned bottomland in our eyes, and we wouldn’t let someone leave their garbage behind,” Haas says.

Haas says he doesn’t think leaving the drilling rod on the lake bottom would negatively impact the environment.

“We wouldn’t expect there to be much environmental risk to a 45-foot, three inch diameter grout rod that’s laying 240 feet at depth,” he says.

However, in a letter to Enbridge, Haas says there is a small chance the rod could get entangled with existing infrastructure in the Straits due to the changing underwater currents.

“The continued presence of unused material on bottomlands of the Straits of Mackinac can pose a risk of infrastructure entanglements. Removing the unneeded dropped section of grout rod will avoid discarded materials potentially damaging existing Straits infrastructure,” the letter says.

A spokesman for Enbridge would not give an exact timeline for the project.

In an email to EGLE, another Enbridge spokesperson said the company would remove the pipe, “in the coming weeks, to retrieve the lost pipe and inspect the borehole to confirm if any pipe is protruding out.”

Editor's note: Enbridge is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.

This post has been updated to reflect the grout rod's current condition at the bottom of the lake. The post orginally said "swaying" when the correct word is "laying."

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Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.
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