Enbridge says it knew about pipeline damage 3 years ago

Enbridge Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — The company that operates twin oil pipelines in a Great Lakes waterway says it knew three years ago that protective coating had been damaged but didn’t inform regulatory agencies.

Enbridge Inc. says a gap was opened in enamel coating on one section of Line 5 in Michigan’s Straits of Mackinac as a support anchor was being installed in 2014. The coating gap is one of several that have exposed bare metal on parts of the pipelines.

Company spokesman Ryan Duffy says the gaps are being repaired and haven’t compromised the pipelines’ safety.

But state officials are criticizing Enbridge’s failure to disclose the damage earlier.

Michigan Agency for Energy Director Valerie Brader says her office’s trust in Enbridge “has been seriously eroded.”

The Straits of Mackinac links Lakes Huron and Michigan.

Below is a statement released by Enbridge on Friday:

Enbridge continues to provide information to the State of Michigan in response to information requests as the State is processing a permit application for ongoing maintenance work on Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac. Recently, we informed the State that installation of a pipeline support anchor in 2014 resulted in some coating damage that did not harm the pipe itself. The coating was repaired this year during a scheduled underwater inspection of the line. We want to emphasize that the safety of the pipeline was never compromised.
Engineers in Enbridge’s pipeline integrity department have been aware of the coating damage since they occurred in 2014. Our pipeline integrity department continued to monitor these areas, and the coating damage was determined not to present any threat to the safety of the pipeline at any time.

Earlier this year, Enbridge representatives said they were not aware of any sections of bare metal along Line 5 in the Straits. At the time, these statements were accurate to the best of their awareness. However, information from our integrity department has surfaced as a result of the State’s information request, and we are sharing this information publicly. Again, the safety of the pipeline was never compromised; this was an internal reporting issue.

As our dialogue with the state continues, Enbridge has come to recognize that issues which do not present a threat to the safety of the pipeline can still present a strong concern to Michigan, and we are adjusting our communication approach accordingly.

We regret that this miscommunication may have caused confusion for state officials and the public. We are committed to being transparent on all matters related to the safe operations of our pipelines in Michigan.