In the wake of the successful denial of building the Keystone XL pipeline, the Detroit Metro Times published an accurate and detailed story about how Line 5 fits in with the movement of tar sands oil around the Great Lakes region.
Metro Times submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for documents pertaining to the safety of Line 5. It sought information regarding the integrity of the structure or inspection results — anything that could offer a look below the surface of the straits.
Instead, the documents revealed a potential problem on land.
One of the documents obtained included a report on the North Straits Pumping Station in St. Ignace, located just off the coast of the straits, where Line 5 splits off into the two straits pipelines. According to the report, Enbridge discovered contaminated soil at the pumping station while making upgrades in 2011.
"I investigated that — trying to get to the bottom of it and what's the basic condition of [Line 5]. Not whether it should be moved or what would happen if a spill happened. It was just essentially 'what's the condition of the pipeline' — and I couldn't get this question answered." - Mark Brush, producer for Michigan Radio's WUOM in Ann Arbor
The company wound up removing 361.6 tons of contaminated soil, the result of what the report called "historical releases of crude oil from the Enbridge pipeline system during routine maintenance activities." While removing groundwater from the site, Enbridge noticed a strong petroleum odor and installed a mechanical treatment system. Later, in 2013, Enbridge installed monitoring wells on the site, which detected low levels of volatile organic compounds in the groundwater.