The Great Lakes provide the vast majority of North America’s freshwater. This fresh water is used for consumption, wildlife, agriculture and Pure Michigan tourism, adding $22.8 billion to Michigan’s economy. Considering how vital fresh water is to the human population and economy, it is important and necessary to keep the Great Lakes safe.
Line 5, an oil pipeline installed in 1954, runs west of Mackinac Island between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Each day, nearly 23 million gallons of crude oil is transported through its pipes. The ever growing demand for gasoline pushes crude oil expectations higher than ever before. One company, Enbridge, is using Line 5 to supply propane to about 55% of Michigan homes. Unfortunately Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipeline is now posing a threat the Great Lakes.
Since its installation Line 5 has spilled 29 times, leaking more than 1.1 million gallons into the Great Lakes. In 65 years, the pipeline has hardly been updated or upgraded. While it continues to age and the need for oil continues to increase, the risk of a major spill is imminent.
Considering the water disasters Michigan has endured within the last 10 years–the Kalamazoo River oil spill, Plainfield Township’s contaminated residential wells and the Flint Water Crisis for example–the last thing Michigan needs is another cataclysmic environmental tragedy as a result of human error and carelessness. Michigan’s economy and, most importantly, Michigan’s people have suffered enough from these environmental disasters in the past; they shouldn’t have to worry about the future of their water if another tragedy could be prevented.
It begs the question, who keeps enabling the protection of Enbridge, considering it is responsible for several big spills, including the Kalamazoo River oil spill. This was the biggest inland oil spill in U.S. history, submerging 40 miles of the Kalamazoo watershed in tar sands oil. Between 1999 and 2013 Enbridge recorded incident after incident, dumping more than 7.4 million gallons of oil on U.S. lands and waterways. Its pipes and materials are not trustworthy and fail time and time again. Action must be taken in order to remove or improve these aging pipes. The materials that have the power to taint and destroy Michigan waters should be regulated or even relocated to secure such an important natural resource.
While it would be ideal to shut Line 5 down completely, constructing a new plan to transport the oil through Michigan would be the best option. After all, oil provides much of the gas used in cars and helps to heat Michigan homes. A possible solution for now may be to implement new hardware that would encase the old pipes ensuring the security of the Great Lakes. If the pipelines are not going to be removed, they need to be maintained and should be modernized for the sake of such a large freshwater resource.
No matter what changes are made, it is imperative that something is done to protect the Great Lakes and keep Pure Michigan pure.