Enbridge lost rods in the Straits. It didn’t tell Michigan for two months.

Enbridge Inc.'s Line 5 tunnel crosses under the Straits of Mackinac. The energy conglomerate is amid a multimillion-dollar project to protect the tunnel. (Courtesy photo)

In mid-September, workers for Enbridge Inc. dug deep, narrow holes to gather rock and soil samples along the lakebed under the Straits of Mackinac as a part of the project to build a tunnel to protect the Line 5 oil pipeline. 

One of those holes collapsed, leaving 40 feet of thin drilling rod lodged in the ground and another 45 feet of broken rod on the lake bottom, 245 feet below the water’s surface, according to a letter the state sent to Enbridge Tuesday notifying them of the violation. They waited until the sampling work was done two months later before reporting it to the state. 

Now it’s too late in the year for the company to safely retrieve the debris, which a spokesman says the company will collect in spring when the weather is safer for such a deep dive. 

Ryan Duffy, spokesman for Enbridge, told Bridge the 3-inch-wide rods don’t pose a safety or environmental risk in the meantime. The two-month reporting delay was necessary, he said, so the company could do a thorough risk assessment at such great depths.

“We needed to take a good look at it and what the best course of action would be,” Duffy said. 

The state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) sent a letter to the company on Tuesday noting the debris is a violation of Enbridge’s permit and state law. The state said the company must remove the rods as soon as possible, but at least before its permit expires in January 2024. 

A spokesman for the department said the company won't be required to pay a fee for the violation, but said via email that EGLE “let them know of our concern that they waited so long to tell us about the incident.” 

Environmental groups raised concerns Thursday that the hole collapse — while likely not harmful to the environment itself — may be indicative of future problems in the controversial pipeline tunnel project. 

“Enbridge committing yet another violation, and their delay in reporting the incident, should be the final wake-up call to decision makers that we cannot continue to trust Enbridge with the health of the Great Lakes and our drinking water,” Beth Wallace, Great Lakes partnership manager and pipeline safety specialist for the National Wildlife Federation, said in a statement.

“This incident and Enbridge’s inability to immediately retrieve a 40-foot boring rod off the bottomlands, due to winter weather conditions, is alarming. What happens if the existing 66-year-old twin pipelines on the lake bed rupture?”

Duffy of Enbridge said the company is committed to the project and that “there’s no comparison” between the boring holes and the concrete-walled tunnel 100 feet below the lakebed that will protect Line 5. 

“We’re working with the best geologists and tunnel engineers on the project and their expertise is going to guide what we do,” he said. “Early indications from the geotech work, the data we’ve looked at so far, all shows that the conditions under the straits are favorable to build a tunnel.”

Enbridge reached an agreement with former Gov. Rick Snyder toward the end of his administration in 2018 to build the tunnel, which is intended to protect Line 5 from damage that could pose a risk to the Great Lakes. The company will pay for the $500-million project and has promised to pay nearly $1.9 billion in damages if the pipeline is ruptured, though Attorney General Dana Nessel has issued a report detailing concerns that there’s a legal loophole allowing it to avoid payment.   

Nessel filed a lawsuit in June to shut down the pipeline and lost a separate Court of Claims challenge to the tunnel project in October, though she has promised to appeal. The company sued Michigan earlier this year after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer stopped the project in March

Whitmer, Nessel and many other Democrats have opposed Line 5, the 66-year-old pipeline that runs from Wisconsin to Canada, citing concerns that it poses a risk of breaking and causing major damage to the Great Lakes. Republicans have largely supported it, arguing it’s an essential source of fuel for the state, especially the Upper Peninsula.

Enbridge said it plans to begin construction on the tunnel in 2021 and complete it in 2024.


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Barry Visel
Thu, 12/05/2019 - 7:01pm

So, if a boat or ship sinks, is the owner expected to pick up the debris? Okay, a little tongue-in-cheek, but really, what’s the difference?

Fri, 12/06/2019 - 8:52am

The problem is the blatant disregard for reporting problems to the State! If they fail with a sample rod what do you think will happen with oil??

Sun, 12/22/2019 - 11:39am

Fortunately oil floats and cannot be hidden under 275 feet of water. Looks like immediate reporting.

Sun, 12/08/2019 - 5:37pm


Rita Mitchell
Fri, 12/06/2019 - 12:44am

If Enbridge can't retrieve debris in the winter it certainly can't clean up oil in winter. Shut down Line 5. Winter is coming, and ice will cover the Straits.
A two month delay in reporting a problem is consistent with the poor communication by the Canadian oil company. The company is unreliable, and a tunnel will not protect the 6 of 40 miles of pipeline not under the Straits.

Fri, 12/06/2019 - 8:17am

And, I heard of two other recent incidents near the Mackinaw facility. The station manger spilled a cup of coffee and his assistant dropped a box of paper clips. Neither of which was reported or to anyone's knowledge cleaned up properly! Even more evidence the whole company needs to shut down.

Fri, 12/06/2019 - 3:21pm

Did you hear about the time Enbridge crapped in us in the Kalamazoo river disaster?

Sat, 12/07/2019 - 2:13pm

Why are you so dumb and so flippant?

Fred McG
Fri, 12/27/2019 - 10:13pm

Because this article is really clutching at straws to bring a little environmental drama to this web site. Some, like you seem to eat it up. Enjoy, and move on to the next paper tiger.

Fri, 12/06/2019 - 8:11am

This story isn't just about Enbridge's loss of equipment. It's the latest example of their unwillingness to be forthright about industrial accidents - not only to address them in a timely manner, but also to report them. Reputable chemical manufacturers, refiners, and other industries have long appreciated the need to keep communities in which they operate apprised of accidents - as soon as they happen, what happened, it potential impact, what the company is doing about it at the time, and steps it will take to prevent future occurrences. The idea is to be a responsible member of the community - which Enbridge has demonstrated its unwillingness to be since its massive Kalamazoo oil spill in 2010.

Kevin Grand
Fri, 12/06/2019 - 8:26am

So EXACTLY what was the environmental risk in all of this again?

If leaving stuff at the bottom of a body of water is such a serious problem, why hasn't EGLE come down on Detroit like a ton of bricks for their multiple violations of the very same thing?



Plus, I'd be a lot more concerned when one of the water inlets for the Detroit Water Dept becomes irradiated.


How many people does that supply water to?

Fri, 12/06/2019 - 3:24pm

EGLE should come down hard on all these environmental catastrophes.

Fri, 12/06/2019 - 8:52am

Yet the Michigan GOP still thinks Enbridge is honest and worthy of our trust. After how many spills and how many botched efforts to either prevent spills or clean them up.

And when you look closely at promises from Enbridge about cleaning up any (probable) Line 5 spills, one noticed they have limited their exposure to an LLC they established in the US that they will dump like a hot potato when the big one occurs (not if, when). And have us pay for cleaning up their mess.

A thoroughly dishonest, incompetent company that NO ONE with a conscience or functioning brain should trust.

Fri, 12/06/2019 - 8:56am

Another event in a long history of Enbridge screwing up and failing to report it until they are either caught or as in this case to continue work until they are clear of criticism from those of us who care about the impending disaster.
It appears Enbridge is controlling the activity at the Straits with little or no oversight by the State.

Fri, 12/06/2019 - 9:05am

So what exactly is the 'news' here? If I lost my fishing pole, fishing lure or boat anchor, do I need to retrieve it immediately? I obtained a license/permit from the State to fish and to have a boat on the water also? According to a quote from DEGLE in the Petoskey paper, "Haas said that Enbridge did not break any rules or regulations by waiting two months to file their initial report". Move along and actually cover something that is newsworthy.....

Sun, 12/08/2019 - 5:25pm

WOW!!!! You must be one of the Rump supporters do not know the difference between fishing equipment and drilling rods!!!

Tue, 12/24/2019 - 9:26am

This Trump supporter thinks Line 5 should be shut down immediately. To my way of thinking, we, as a State, and as a Nation have zero obligation to Enbridge, which has an obviously well deserved poor reputation. A tunnel, however, makes more sense. And, relative to the lost drills, have no problem, whatsoever, thinking they might remain, like some shipwrecks, at the bottom of the lake , indefinitely. Let us refrain from alarmist tendencies, as well as disparaging comments about people with whom we disagree. Such rhetoric serves only to hinder coming to mutually beneficial cooperation.

Fri, 12/06/2019 - 9:49am

If Enbridge is such an environmental threat, where was the MDEQ ‘s follow up ? Why weren’t they pro- actively making sure that the contract was followed if Enbridge can’t be trusted. The State agencies have more than just a finger pointing responsibility when it comes to these matters. There needs to be a bit less sensationalism used by the journalists reporting on these matters as well.

Fri, 12/06/2019 - 10:54am

Rita Mitchell is correct. Enbridge cannot be trusted in any way given their poor performance on reporting and addressing issues with the pipe lines under the Straits and with other disasters with their pipelines--Western Michigan, is a great example.

I still wonder what Enbridge "promised" to Synder for his quick and near secretive approval of the proposed tunnel. Snyder certainly was no fan of clean environments given his absolute disaster with Flint City water and the lasting damage that has caused to children of that city.

Did money change hands or did Enbridge promise loads of money to the State Chamber for support of Snyder's party? I believe that the current Attorney General should investigate that Snyder "quickie."

Please keep in mind that clean water is at stake for millions of Michiganders and others along the path of the Great Lakes.

Fri, 12/06/2019 - 11:08am

Enbridge frightens me, too many screwups.

Fri, 12/06/2019 - 11:30am

I agree wholeheartedly with the comments of Rita Mitchell about Enbridge and its performance. Just witness the company's inability to quickly address leaks and other issues with the pipelines under the Strait and witness problems the company did not address quickly with other pipelines including one of their biggestpipelne leaks in western Michigan that created a giant spill the Kalamazoo River, if memory serves me, and that pollution has lasted to this day.

Imagine a tunnel under the Straits with a leak occurring as the oil seeps into the water and gets little attention from Enbridge. That could be a disaster and pollute drinking water for millions of people.

Frankly I still wonder about former Governor Snyder's quick and secretive approval of the tunnel. It was done with no public debate or airing till it was just about announced. What did Enbridge promise to a Governor who already had created a disaster with the water for people in the Flint leaving children and others impaired for life by being poisoned by the drinking water. I still believe that the Attorney General should look into that though with Michigan's lack of legislation to examine the internal records of Governors and Legislators, we may never know. But...will certain political PACs get big donations for support of Republican legislators now and in the future from Enbridge for the "quickie" approval of the tunnel?

Fri, 12/06/2019 - 3:19pm


Vince Caruso
Fri, 12/06/2019 - 5:17pm

This is clearly unacceptable, to wait 2 months to notify the state of an accident in the Straits of Mackinac. You have no sense of the clean fresh waters you are violating.

This are the waters of the State of Michigan not the Waters of Enbridge and as such we have a duty to protect the most valuable resource in the world, the unmatched clean freshwater resource we call the Great Lakes and the Native Americans/First Nation called gichi-gami, erielhonan, Ontarí’io, Michigan (large water). They protected these, knew and had reverence for these tremendous resources, not us it would seem, sham on us.

Enbridge you are not welcome in these magical waters, be gone before you destroy one of major Natural Wonders of the World and North America and Michigan. No amount of money can pay for the destruction of the resource, not even all the The Dark Oil Money in the world.

Fossil Fuels are a Dead Thing Walking, it's time has finally thankfully passed, as has Enbridge's.

Sun, 12/08/2019 - 10:08am

“We’re working with the best geologists and tunnel engineers on the project and their expertise is going to guide what we do,” said Enbridge spokesperson. Yeah, we see they work with the "best" drillers too. This project is moving closer to disaster. Shut it down. Reverse the flow of the lower peninsula pipeline.

Sun, 12/08/2019 - 5:18pm

Who gave them a permit to drill????? No one or Snyder the snake?

Sun, 12/22/2019 - 11:47am

Perhaps the Democrats could revoke it.

Sun, 12/08/2019 - 9:32pm

Drill rods are steel, which over geological time in fresh water will revert to iron hydroxides (ore). The western Great Lakes are paved with iron ore, both naturally and from shipwrecks.

Another 850 pounds of iron ore in the Straits is a drop in the lake, so to speak. If this doesn't relieve your panic, the ore that drill rod was made from probably was mined somewhere along the Lakes, Just returning to its home.

Tue, 12/10/2019 - 11:18am

What a garbage thread of comments. As usual the liberal trolls are out in full force. How about get a job.

Tue, 12/10/2019 - 1:00pm

Dumb trolls, nothing to see here, folks. Let Enbridge do what it wants. We'll call you after the disaster to clean up the mess, again. Ha ha, suckers!

Gretchen A Davis
Tue, 12/17/2019 - 10:56am

Again, and again Enbridge continues to have "problems" while digging deep holes and gathering rock and soil samples under the Straits of Mackinac. Too bad they didn't bother to immediately alert the state Department of Environment about an "additional problem". Oops, one of those holes collapsed, and 40 feet of thin drilling rod was lodged in the ground, as well as 45 feet of broken rod lays on the lake bottom, a couple-hundred feet below the surface. Enbridge sent a letter to the State of Michigan, two months AFTER the "sampling work" was finished, notifying the State about their violation.

The state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) informed Enbridge that the debris is a violation of their permit and state law. In the state's reply Enbridge must remove the rods as soon as possible, but gives them until January 2024, when their permit expires. Why is the Department of Environment letting Enbridge continue to not follow policies that, over the years, and they blatantly still choose not follow the rules and that does not bode well for our Great Lakes? This department and other agency's are supposed to make rules and policy's, watch over businesses to make sure they are doing what is expected of them, and if a business such as Enbridge does not do their due diligence, then they should be fined or their contract should be rescinded! The State of Michigan is also not requiring Enbridge to pay a fee for this violation! Why???
A department will not be requiring Enbridge to pay any fee for the violation, but via email that same department “let them know of our concern that they waited so long to tell us about the incident.”! WOW, not even a slap on the wrist!

“Enbridge committing yet another violation, and their delay in reporting the incident, should be the final wake-up call to decision makers that we cannot continue to trust Enbridge with the health of the Great Lakes and our drinking water.".

We cannot allow them to continue as they have. Enbridge's track record is piss-poor, having made few changes in making safety corrections, and not stepping-up their maintenance and upkeep to make this pipeline as safe as possible.

The hole collapse is not considered harmful to the environment at this time by the State of Michigan, but based on Enbridge's lengthy list of mishaps, slow, tardy, and after the fact slow communication when problems have occurred (past & present), well I wouldn't trust Enbridge to be up-front or "Johnny-on-the-spot" should any future environmental problems occur as they continue to try and "fix things up"!

We need a plan that will protect our Great Lakes. I'd love to see the entire pipeline closed and removed so we don't loose our greatest treasures ~ Lakes Michigan, Superior, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, to a company that cannot be trusted to keep their end of any "bargain"!

Sun, 12/22/2019 - 11:41am

The new line should be called line 5A.
Just my 2 cents.

Sun, 12/22/2019 - 11:41am

The new line should be called line 5A.
Just my 2 cents.