Experts Recommend Shutting Down Mackinac Straits Oil Lines

Friday, December 4, 2015
Updated January 6, 2016

According to U-M Water Center hydroexpert Dave Schwab:

"If you were to pick the worst possible place for an oil spill in the Great Lakes, this would be it.

The currents are powerful and change direction frequently. In the event of an oil spill,
these factors would lead to a big mess that would be very difficult to contain.
"

Both the Huffington Post and the Detroit News recently brought to light recommendations from FLOW (For Love of Water), a Michigan based NGO which has helped to raise awareness and concern about two 62-year-old pipelines owned by Canadian company Enbridge Energy that run under the Straits. FLOW's expert report concluded that these pipelines - known as Line 5 - should be shut down in the Straits pending a full review under state public trust law given the potential effects of corrosion from zebra mussels as well as aging welding and coal tar enamel coating concerns.

A line rupture or leak in that area could cause major ecological problems in both Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, and threaten drinking water supplies, according to researchers. Assembled by Schuette and Wyant, The Michigan Petroleum task force was assembled amid these concerns last summer and will issue their own recommendations sometime this month. 

University of Michigan's Water Center researchers Dave Schwab  (University of Michigan Water Center) and Eric J. Anderson (NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory) helped illustrate the potential danger of a possible oil spill near the Straits of Mackinac using computer modeling to show the flow of oil through the area.  The visual simulation showed oil quickly spreading into both Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, contaminating shorelines miles away in a matter of hours (watch below).

For Additional coverage of this story see: