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About 300 miles of pipeline to be replaced after Michigan spill

Workers from Enbridge Pipeline Company perform preventative maintenance an underground pipeline near 61st Street Friday June 24 2011 Hobart Ind.

Workers from Enbridge Pipeline Company perform preventative maintenance on an underground pipeline near 61st Street Friday, June 24, 2011, in Hobart, Ind. | Scott M. Bort~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 18, 2013 6:08AM



Enbridge Inc. plans to replace Line 6B, almost 300 miles of pipe used to transport crude oil through Northwest Indiana and Michigan and into Canada, but local environmental groups are worried about the company’s recent reputation for oil spills, and if more can be done to protect local wetlands and the Great Lakes.

Line 6B begins at a pumping station in Griffith, and the company plans to replace the pipeline with a larger, thicker pipe, increasing the size from 30 inch to 36, and increasing the thickness to 2.5, which Jennifer Smith, an Enbridge spokesperson, said increases the strength yield by 35 percent.

The new pipe will be within 25 feet of the existing right-of-way whenever possible.

Crude oil will continue to be pumped through the current pipe, which was built in 1969.

“It’s a continuous supply,” Smith said, “So the existing line is going to continue to run during construction.”

The older pipe will stay in the ground after being replaced, and will be filled with nitrogen gas and sealed off. Smith said the retired pipeline will stay on the company’s maintenance roll.

Enbridge plans to spend $1.5 billion on the entire project, $300 million to replace the pipeline in Indiana.

Local environmental groups like Save The Dunes are worried that construction will endanger local wetlands, and more proactive regulations and inspections should be required to prevent a spill.

The project will cross 145 wetlands, and may temporarily impact 76.3 acres of wetlands. Enbridge plans to mitigate the impact by planting and monitoring impact sites, and compensate restoration of a 70-acre site of wetlands and grassland property in Pine Township.

Nathan Pavlovic of Save The Dunes said they want construction to avoid wetlands whenever possible.

“We want to make sure that as this project moves forward, that all the natural resources are protected, including water quality. We hope that they can go through areas that can avoid wetlands,” Pavolic said. “In areas where for whatever reason, there’s construction that’s close to a wetland, we hope they’re taking steps to insure that those are impacted minimally and the wetlands are regularly restored.”

A public hearing is scheduled from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in LaPorte County Library, 904 Indiana Ave. regarding a request by Enbridge to place fill material into state-regulated waters.

The same day, the City of Hobart will host a community information meeting 6:30 p.m. Dec. 18 at the Southlake Worship Center at 3440 West 61st Ave.

While environmentalist are noting their concern on the construction, they’re still worried about recent spills throughout the Great Lakes Basin.

Since 2010, Enbridge has had three large spills resulting in $783.5 million in property damages, and a collective of 29,000 barrels spilled. The largest was in Marshall, Mich., resulting in $725 million in property damage and 20,082 barrels spilled, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which regulates interstate pipelines. Cleaning the spill caused by a crack in the old Line 6B are still underway.

Two months later, a spill in Romeoville, Ill. in August caused $48 million in property damage, with a spill of 7,538 barrels. The clean-up was able to recover all the barrels.

A spill in Grand Marsh, Wis. in July 2012, caused a spill of 1,729 barrels, costing $10.5 million in property damage.

Since 2006, Enbridge has had seven incidents that resulted in more than $1 million in property damage.

Response to a spill is also a large concern, since it took 17 hours for pipeline operators to confirm the spill in Marshall before shutting down the rupture.

PHMSA representative Damon Hill said pipelines do routine internal inspections on their pipelines, and are required to provide their records for federal review to the Office of Pipeline Safety. Indiana’s regulatory board, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, doesn’t oversee pipes that travel across state borders.

“There are a few states that have an interstate program,” Hill said, “but for the most part, a majority of them do not.”

The company is required to have an emergency response plan, and Smith said the plan considers the at-risk areas. She added that Enbridge has a staff of 60 people in Indiana, and a network of emergency responders alone the path of Line 6B.

The pipelines are also pumping new crude oil, which environmental organizations are worried is more corrosive than standard crude oil. Smith said that a number of industry studies show that pumping diluted bitumen, has similar characteristics to heavy crude oil.

Pavlovic doesn’t agree, and he points to the spill in Marshall where clean-up has required dredging out the bottom of the Kalamazoo River where the spill occurred.

“Lighter crude oils acts differently,” he said, “When that spills the lighter crude floats to the top of the waterway. But the diluted bitumen falls to the bottom. That’s why at the Kalamazoo spill, they have to dredge it out.”

Whether diluted bitumen, known as dilbit, could cause damage and cracks to the pipeline, Pavlovic said he thinks there’s need for more study.

The National Academy of Sciences is conducting a study on behalf of PHMSA to determine whether dilbit causes any additional problems within the pipeline, but is not expected to be completed until 2013.

Smith said Enbridge has learned a lot of lessons since the spill in Marshall, causing numerous changes of company procedures.

“We are going above and beyond what we’re required,” Smith said, “It’s in the best interest for the residents in Indiana and everyone along the line, to get this pipeline in, and there are a number of new enhancements on the new line.”



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