Advance Notice: Briefs

Contaminated Ashland soil along Enbridge Line 5 under investigation

By: - August 5, 2022 9:44 am

Line 5 map | Laina G. Stebbins graphic

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is assisting in the investigation of suspected oil-contaminated soil collected along Enbridge Line 5 south in Ashland, Wisc.

The pipeline stretches from Sarnia, Ontario, through a swath of northern Michigan to Wisconsin.

According to a state DNR press release, an Enbridge contractor reported the soil to the DNR on the evening of Aug. 3. The soil was suspected to have been contaminated near Old Airport Road and Holmes Road, about a mile west of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa reservation.

Enbridge, a Canadian energy company, told the DNR company officials believe the contamination was from a historical discharge and not an ongoing leak. All material suspected of being contaminated has been excavated and stockpiled. During visits to the site, DNR staff have not noticed additional petroleum odors or stained soil. Nevertheless, Enbridge will be required to document the actions it takes to address the suspected contamination, as well as document the amount of soil excavated.

Enbridge stated that it didn’t detect indications of a leak when the pipeline was shut down. The company’s attempts to identify a leak were fruitless, and no sign of a leak was apparent when the pipeline was brought up to full pressure.

The investigation is ongoing.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered Line 5 to be shut down in 2021, but it is still operating as Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel pursues legal action. It also has been the subject of an ongoing lawsuit by the Bad River Band, which is seeking to protect its watershed and sacred sites.

The company has long argued that the aging pipeline is safe and its continued operation necessary.

This story first ran in the Advance‘s sister outlet, the Wisconsin Examiner.

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Isiah Holmes
Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer for the Wisconsin Examiner, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, and other outlets.