Oil company hopes to avoid another major leak

October 20, 2011

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(AP photo)
Clean up of the Kalamazoo River in summer 2010.

The company behind one of Michigan’s biggest oil leaks is seeking to replace 75 miles worth of underground pipes. Enbridge Energy Partners is hoping to start next summer to replace the pipes.

Of the 75 miles, 65 miles worth of pipe replacement is targeted for Southwest Michigan. A total of 10 miles will also be replaced near the Indiana cities of Griffith and LaPorte.

The actual pipeline begins and Enbridge’s pumping station in Griffith, about 30 miles southeast of Chicago, and heads into Ontario, Canada.

Enbridge spokesman Joe Martucci says the company’s engineers determined that the pipes will need repairs in the coming years. So, instead of repairs, replacement is a better alternative, he said.

“Replacing those particular segments would be less disruptive to the landowners than coming back in, possibly repeatedly in coming years and having to do individual repairs on those segments,” Martucci told WBEZ on Wednesday.

The oil leak contaminated parts of the Kalamazoo River near a pump station in Marshall, Michigan in July 2010, about the same time as the massive BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

Enbridge replaced the section of pipe that broke. That section will also now be replaced again under this new project.

But Martucci said the proposed project is unrelated to what happened last year.

“It’s an integrity management program and it’s maintenance oriented,” Martucci said.

Enbridge needs approval for the project from both the Michigan Public Service Commission and the Indiana Regulatory Commission. 

Martucci said Enbridge hopes to begin work next summer and complete it by the end of 2012.

Dozens of homeowners were displaced following the leak, that fallout of which continues to this day.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warned this month that Enbridge could face civil penalties if it does not submit clean-up plans for the river for next year.

The EPA estimated that more than 23,000 barrels of Canadian tar sands oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River and Talmadge Creek from the ruptured pipeline.

Enbridge estimates the cost of the cleanup and potential claims for damage at about $700 million.