Enbridge's Record

Largest U.S. Tar Sand Spill in a 43-year old Pipeline

On July 26, 2010, an Enbridge tar sands pipeline spilled more than 1,100,000 gallons of diluted bitumen in Michigan’s Kalamazoo watershed. [1]
The highly computerized alarm system of Enbridge detected its first alarms of a possible spill at 4:12 am--but operators kept turning on and off the pumping till the spill was confirmed at 11:41 am the same morning. This was more than 7 hours later-- and the spill was only confirmed then by an onsite, visual pipeline inspection. By then, at least 884,000 gallons of crude had leaked.[2]
A day after the spill, air samples along the Kalamazoo River showed readings of 15,000 ppb of benzene. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the maximum safe level for acute benzene exposure is 9 parts per billion (ppb).[3]

For more than three weeks after the spill, transient benzene levels remained exponentially high in the area where the spill occurred.

Hundreds were evacuated...many still feel sick. The extent of long term effects are unknown.[4]
In September 2011, Enbridge estimated the cost of its Michigan spill would rise from $585 million to $700 million. It also stated that it was unsure if its insurance company would cover all the costs.[5]
Almost two years later, after traveling more than 35 miles down the Kalamazoo River, the spill is still not cleaned up. Property is ruined. People are sick.

A History of Violations

According to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Enbridge has been fined more than $2.4 million in violations dating back to 2006.[6]

volunteer wading in creek fouled by Enbridge spill

In November 2007, two Enbridge employees were killed when repairs on the same Lakehead system in Minnesota caused leaking crude oil to ignite.

In relation to that incident, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) conducted an extensive year-long accident investigation and determined that Enbridge failed to safely and adequately perform maintenance and repair activities, failed to clear the designated work area from possible ignition sources, and hired workers who were not adequately trained or qualified.[7]

In August 2010, PHMSA also issued final orders totaling more than $2.4 million in civil penalties for violations identified at facilities in Houma, Louisiana in 2006 and in Cushing, Oklahoma in 2009.[8]

The Houma fine was for Enbridge’s failure to properly monitor for internal corrosion and perform valve maintenance procedures. The Cushing fine was for failing to properly inspect in-service breakout tanks.[9]

More Spills

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for printable version of this section.
ruptured Enbridge tar sands pipeline in Kalamazoo watershed
Kalamazoo Rupture, July 2010
In 2012
In 2012 Business Insider named Enbridge one of the sixteen US pipeline operators with the most reported significant incidents per pipeline mile. [18]

The following are only some of the oil spills from Enbridge in Canada and the United States.
  • January 2001: Enbridge’s Energy Transportation North Pipeline leaked 1,003,800 gallons of crude oil into a slough near Hardisty, Alberta.[11]
  • July 2002: A 34-inch diameter steel pipeline ruptured in a marsh west of Cohasset, Minnesota. To prevent 252,000 gallons of crude oil from reaching the Mississippi River, the company set the oil on fire. The plume of smoke extended one mile high. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board blamed the rupture on “inadequate loading of the pipe for transportation.”[11]
  • January 2003: A pipeline failure resulted in a spill of 189,000 gallons of oil at Enbridge’s oil terminal near Superior, Wis. Approximately 2100 gallons flowed into the Nemadji River, a tributary of Lake Superior.[11]
  • April/May 2004: U.S. pipeline regulators fined Enbridge for failing to properly inspect oil and gas pipelines in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin.[11]
  • March 2006: Enbridge announced its first tar sand oil shipment to Cushing OK.[14]
  • January 2007: A pipeline break near Stanley, N.D., spilled 9,030 gallons of oil. Regulators fined Enbridge for exceeding pressure standards for the pipeline.[11]
  • February 2007: An estimated 176,000 gallons spilled in two separate incidents in Clark and Rusk County, Wisconsin. One pipeline cracked open and couldn’t be shut off until an operator in Canada shut down the line. In the second incident work crews broke the same line, filling a hole 20 feet deep with oil and contaminating local groundwater. The company was fined $100,000 for not following safety standards.[11]
  • November 2007: A 34-inch pipeline carrying bitumen to U.S. Midwest markets exploded, killing two workers near Clearbrook, Minn. The pipe had leaked two weeks prior to the explosion and was being repaired. The fireball, which leapt 100 feet into the air, temporarily jacked up the price of oil by four dollars and closed four other pipelines delivering 63 million gallons of crude a day.[11]
  • May 2008: Alberta’s energy regulator delivered a “high risk enforcement action” against Enbridge for using “valves, flanges and fittings” on its Midstream pipeline that were not suitable for maximum operating pressure. No fines were levied.[11]
  • January 2009: A valve blew on a pipe at the Enbridge Cheecham Terminal tank farm, spilling 168,000 gallons of oil near Anzac, Alberta. The leak wasn’t detected for three hours and Alberta regulators issued no statements, because no member of the public was affected.[11]
  • January 2010: A pipeline leaked 126,000 gallons near Neche, N.D. The feds had warned Enbridge twice that older pipelines were susceptible to failure. The line is part of the 1,900-mile-long Lakehead System that delivers crude from western Canada to Cushing, Oklahoma and Chicago.[11]
  • July 2010: Enbridge shut its 12 million gallons per day Line 6B, which runs from Griffiths, Indiana, to Sarnia, Ontario, on July 26 after a rupture near Marshall, Michigan, spilled about 840,000 gallons of Cold Lake crude oil into the Kalamazoo River system.[12]
  • September 2010: Enbridge closed Line 6A for eight days after it leaked 256,200 gallonsof crude near Romeoville, Illinois.[12]
  • May 2011: Enbridge estimates between 29,400 and 63,000 gallons of oil spilled from the 1.6 million gallons per day Norman Wells pipeline south of Wrigley, Northwest Territories.[12]
  • June 2012: Enbridge shut 14.5 million gallon per day Athabasca pipeline after 58,800 gallons of oil were spilled near Elk Point in northeast Alberta. The line was quickly restarted after the company was able to bypass the Elk Point pump station.[12]
  • July 2012: Pipeline segment 14 in the Lakehead system ruptures near Grand Marsh WI., spilling 50,400 gallons of crude oil.[13]
  • August 2012: PHMSA demands a detailed plan  and timeline, and an independent expert to assess and correct hazardous conditions in the entire 1900-mile Lakehead system by Enbridge before line 14 can be reopened.[13]
  • November 2012: Enbridge shut down pipeline segment 14 again after 37,800 gallons of crude oil leaked at the Mokena tank farm near Chicago.[15]

New Incidents:

  • May 18, 2013: Enbridge pipeline in Cushing OK spilled 105,000 gallons.[16]
  • June 22, 2013: A twelve-inch diameter Enbridge pipeline near Cheecham, Alberta, Canada, spilled 31,500 gallons following heavy rains in the area.[17]