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COMMENTARY: Friends of the Headwaters responds

When people look at Friends of the Headwaters’ maps of the Enbridge route, they can see what’s at stake. The Enbridge route crosses the Mississippi Headwaters through some of Minnesota’s cleanest lakes, creates hazards for wild rice beds, and jeopardizes Park Rapids’ drinking water and the Fishhook chain of lakes.

No one in Friends of the Headwaters owns land on the Enbridge pipeline route. But no one who lives in this area wants Park Rapids to become “the town where you can’t drink the water.” And nobody who lives here wants to decimate the local economy by jeopardizing the water local farmers use to irrigate potatoes grown for the area’s largest employer.

Yes, Enbridge SAYS they’re good stewards of the land and water, but they persist in advocating for a route that makes numerous water crossings through our sandy, porous soils. They want a route that makes a sharp elbow over the shallow Straight River basin, an aquifer that is already identified by the MPCA as easily contaminated groundwater. (One probable reason the MPCA is so concerned about the Enbridge route: At the Enbridge spill site near Bemidji, groundwater moves laterally about 3-5 inches a day. In the Straight River basin the groundwater moves between 320 and 630 feet per day.)

According to Enbridge and Ms Little: “They (the monitoring facility in Edmonton, Alberta) can see what’s going on in the system at any point at any time.” What she doesn’t mention is that there are many spills and leaks that go undetected and/or unreported. As the MPCA noted: “It is probable that at least as much petroleum has been leaked underground in Minnesota during that period as was spilled aboveground.”

If Enbridge has precise “computational monitoring,” why weren’t they paying attention to it during the Kalamazoo disaster? Why did they ignore the warnings for 17 hours? Human error. As the EPA noted, “A series of in-line inspections had showed multiple corrosion and crack-like anomalies at the river crossing, but no field inspection was performed” and oil spilled into the river for two days “as operators repeatedly overrode the shut-down system and restarted the line.”

Enbridge knows the EPA’s 2014 predictions around pipeline failure: an average of one leak, spill, or rupture per every 30 miles of pipeline during each pipeline’s lifespan. And Enbridge knows that the Sandpiper will have leaks, spills and ruptures. They just don’t know if the spill will be near Hay Creek, Palmer Lake, or the Shell River. No wonder they’re making generous contributions to First Responders.

This is a company whose safety record is so bad that, in a document from May 6, 2014, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration held up Enbridge as the industry model of what NOT to do. But we’re asked to trust them because now Enbridge now has a new “corrosion inhibitor.”

The people of this area can’t rely on PR from a Canadian conglomerate for information about this issue. These pipelines could impact our land, lives, lakes, and livelihoods. For more accurate information, see https://www.face or

- Friends of the Headwaters