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Enbridge pipeline spill

EDITOR:

Nov. 2 marked the 17th anniversary of the largest spill in Line 5’s history, which occurred in Crystal Falls, Mich., on Nov. 2, 1999. The spill dumped 226,000 gallons of crude and natural gas liquids. From the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) website: “Lakehead control center received a call from Great Lakes Gas personnel making notification of a vapor cloud and pooled oil on the ground approximately 2 miles west of Crystal Falls, Mich. Company resources were mobilized and called to the site at MP 1286.

The Iron River station electrical and the ironwood pipeline maintenance (plm) supervisor were the first to arrive on the scene. Upon arrival on the scene, the plm supervisor found that local responders, police and fire department, had rerouted traffic on approximately a four mile stretch of U.S. 2 and were evacuating local residents as a precautionary measure. Approximately 500 residents were involved during the initial evacuation that included about 100 nursing home residents. The plm supervisor also verified that ngl was leaking from the lakehead pipeline and that a vapor cloud had formed and settled in a peat bog on the row about 150 feet upstream of the leak.

After consulting with local responders and ensuring the immediate area around the vapor cloud was evacuated, the vapor cloud was intentionally ignited at approximately 09:15 a.m. CST on Nov. 2, 1999. The ignited gas spread beyond the visible vapor cloud area and burned over to and underneath a high voltage utility line operated by Wisconsin Electric. The ensuing fire scorched on utility pole and burned through one of phase carrier conductors. This resulted in a power outage of approximately one hour in duration to crystal falls and the surrounding area until Wisconsin electric was able to reroute service. Once power was rerouted, there approximately six residents in the immediate vicinity that went without power until the overhead line was repaired by Wisconsin electric on Nov. 3, 1999, at approximately 15:30 CST. After the initial flaring the ngl vapor cloud, all residents except for six residents located in close proximity to the fire were allowed to return to their homes. The resulting fire was monitored and left to burn until it was extinguished by firefighters from the crystal falls fire department on Nov. 3, 1999, at 15:00 CST.

At that time, dikes were in place to form collection pools for the product leaking form the pipe, of which 2,750 barrels were picked up with vacuum trucks and hauled to the superior terminal by a tanker trucks. Excavation began during the early a.m. hours on Nov. 4, 1999 and it revealed that the pipeline was resting on a rock that resulted in a four to five inch hairline crack to the pipe. A four foot plidco sleeve was installed and welded into place for the repair. At approximately 00:50 CST, on Nov. 5, 1999, the pipeline resumed normal operation.” Time to shut Line 5 down before it happens in Rapid River.

Gerry Niedermaier

Gladstone

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