In 2014 Enbridge Energy, a Canadian pipeline company, replaced and expanded Line 6B that runs through northwest Indiana and central Michigan. The replacement increased the size of the pipeline, tripling the company’s capacity to move tar sands oil through the region. Save the Dunes took action to demand strict enforcement of natural resources protection laws and responsible construction practices and prepare the community for the potential threat of a leak or spill, which would pose a significant threat to critical ecosystems and water resources, including Lake Michigan.
Line 6B runs from Griffith, Indiana to Sarnia, Ontario, and is part of a larger pipeline system called the Lakehead System. While the company’s current plans are to move 500,000 barrels per day through 6B, the pipeline has the capacity to carry 800,000 barrels per day – more than triple the amount of oil that was previously carried through Line 6B before the replacement project. Of major concern is the contents of these 500,000 to 800,000 barrels per day; Enbridge Line 6B carries tar sands oil, or diluted bitumen, which is a mixture of Alberta tar sands and lighter petroleum material. Because the extracted crude bitumen is so thick, it is diluted with lighter petroleum products to be moved through pipelines. This mixture is particularly hazardous in the event of a leak or spill, as demonstrated during the 2010 spill of Enbridge’s Line 6B into the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Michigan. Now the largest inland oil spill in US history, the tear in Line 6B released over one million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River, contaminating 35 miles of the river. Tar sands oil proved particularly damaging in this spill as the heavy crude separated from the lighter petroleum product, releasing toxic evaporates from the lighter petroleum into the atmosphere and making cleanup efforts more difficult as the heavy crude sunk to the bottom of the Kalamazoo River. EPA estimates that 180,000 gallons of oil still sit on the bottom of the river.
Why We Are Concerned
In Northwest Indiana, Enbridge’s route passes through many environmentally sensitive areas, including rivers that flow to Lake Michigan and wetlands that improve water quality in our region. Line 6B crosses 176 wetlands and 82 waterbodies and is anywhere between ten and twenty miles from Lake Michigan; if we were to experience a Kalamazoo-sized spill in our region, the oil could reach Lake Michigan, devastating the industries, recreation and tourism businesses, residents, plants and animals that depend on the lake. Water quality could be impacted on a scale we’ve not yet experienced.
Save the Dunes Takes Action
Influencing Construction Practices
Starting in June of 2012 Save the Dunes took action. We relayed detailed information about our waterways to staff at regulatory agencies to assist them in their reviews. We pushed hard to get the company to hold a public meeting, which was finally held at the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission. We triggered hearings as part of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and Indiana Department of Natural Resource permitting process. (Thank you to the many people who crowded these meeting rooms with us to share our community’s concerns.) We asked elected officials to urge the company to insist on using American products and labor, and asked for the best construction practices possible, including boring under waterways instead of open-cutting and installing more shutoff valves. We also asked the company to use Independent Environmental Monitors (IEMs), or on-the-ground people who monitor the pipeline’s construction to ensure all permits are adhered to properly. The company agreed to do this, and IEMs were part of their permit.
Wildlife Response Training
Following our input on construction and planning processes, Save the Dunes focused efforts on emergency response, particularly relating to wildlife rescue. In April 2014, Save the Dunes, in partnership with Enbridge, hosted a 24-hour HAZWOpER Training for Wildlife Response led by Focus Wildlife International. The training and coursework fulfilled the OSHA requirements for 24-hour HAZWOpER certification, which is required in order to assist in the event of an oil spill.
The training provided an overview specific to oiled wildlife response efforts, giving attendees an understanding of the structure of an oiled wildlife response and human health and safety issues directly related to working with oiled wildlife. Attendees learned about the structure of hazardous material spill response; safety measures for responders; health hazards associated with inhaling, ingesting, and touching hazardous materials; and the equipment necessary for safe and effective response. Attendees also learned about protocols and safety measures specific to wildlife response such as the stages of response; how to effectively search for and capture oiled wildlife; how to handle the animals in each stage of response, from capturing to stabilizing to washing to rehabilitation; human safety and health concerns specific to handling wildlife; the needs of and concerns for particular species of wildlife; and how oil impacts the health of wildlife.
The training was conducted by Charlie Hebert, Jenny Schlieps, and Marie Travers of Focus Wildlife International. Focus Wildlife is a professional oiled wildlife response organization and was the lead wildlife responder for the Kalamazoo River oil spill in 2010, which affected more than 2,800 animals. The company’s founder, Chris Battaglia, has been involved in oil spill response since the Exxon Valdez oil spill and has responded to over 60 spills nationally and internationally.
This training connected a range of key players involved in pipeline safety, oil spill response and clean-up, and restoration efforts, and included representation from regulatory agencies such as the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organizations, conservation organizations, natural resource management agencies such as the National Park Service and the Department of Natural Resources, nearby industry, county HAZMAT teams, and local police and fire departments. All of these different agencies and organizations play a crucial role in the many components of oil spill response, cleanup, and community preparedness.
This training provided workers in the wildlife and conservation field with the certification necessary to assist with an oil spill while providing already certified agencies and emergency response crews with additional information specific to wildlife response. In Northwest Indiana, pipelines and other transporters of hazardous materials run very close to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the Indiana Dunes State Park, Hoosier Prairie, and other ecologically significant sites. Furthermore, hazardous materials are transported within miles to Lake Michigan; this is a huge concern for the people, wildlife, and industries that depend upon it. We live in an area where densely populated communities, precious natural resources, and various sectors of industry co-exist. Involving as many stakeholders as possible in response efforts helps ensure that our natural resources are accounted for and protected.
Construction of Enbridge’s Line 6B Replacement Project is complete and that line is now in service once again carrying a variety of crude oil products. Both Save the Dunes and Enbridge agree that supplying as many people as possible with proper oil response training is a way to proactively prepare our region in the event of a spill. Effective response is something we can all agree on. No one wants to see an oil spill in this region. No one wants to see our communities, drinking water, natural resources, or wildlife affected threatened by an oil spill. The collaboration between organizations, agencies, and industry to protect this region is a meaningful one and this training was a great way for so many people to work together.
Save the Dunes would like to thank all of the agencies, organization, and businesses who attended- the Blue Green Alliance, the Highland Police Department, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the Indiana Dunes State Park, the LaPorte County HAZMAT, Moraine Ridge Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, NIPSCO, the National Park Service, the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration, the Porter County Sheriff Department, the Shedd Aquarium, Shirley Heinze Land Trust, the Sierra Club, and US Fish and Wildlife Service. And we would especially like to thank Enbridge and Patagonia for providing the funding for the training and food.