Enbridge misses aquifer cleanup deadline

Enbridge missed the Oct. 15 deadline to clean up the site of a ruptured aquifer during construction of its controversial Line 3 pipeline, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported on Friday.

Meanwhile, the DNR is investigating two other sites where the company may have caused further damage to groundwater, the agency said in a statement. MNR did not identify the locations of the other sites.

State regulators will demand compensation for the loss of groundwater for the extra time needed to stop the flow of groundwater, the DNR said. And Enbridge will also be liable for any other breaches.

While working on the pipeline in January, teams from Enbridge, based in Calgary, Alta., Dug too deep and pierced an artesian aquifer near Clearbrook, Minnesota. The damage caused at least 24 million gallons of groundwater to leak, threatening to dry up nearby a rare and delicate wetland called limestone swamp.

MNR learned of the leak in June after independent construction inspectors reported water accumulation in the pipeline trench. On September 16, the ministry ordered Enbridge to pay $ 3.32 million for failing to comply with environmental laws.

“Enbridge is fully cooperating with the Minnesota DNR to correct the uncontrolled groundwater flows at Clearbrook, and is working with the DNR as two other sites are under assessment,” said company spokeswoman Juli Kellner by email Saturday.

Kellner did not give the locations of the other two sites but pointed out that they are not in Clearbrook.

Winona LaDuke, who heads Indigenous environmental group Honor the Earth, called the company’s failure to meet the deadline alarming.

“If Enbridge cannot meet basic safety requirements, it should not be allowed to operate a pipeline,” she said. “It’s a deep concern that they can’t fix a problem they did. It doesn’t bode well for the future.”

Oil began to flow through the pipeline on October 1. Heavily opposed by environmental groups and some Ojibway bands, the line carries heavy Canadian crude through northern Minnesota to the company’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin.

Under the MNR order, Enbridge put $ 2.75 million in escrow for restoration and damage to the marsh. Enbridge could recover part of the escrow deposit if the remediation costs less – or pay more if costs rise.

Enbridge paid an additional $ 40,000 in compensation to the state for the last 30 days of groundwater resources lost as a result of the uncontrolled aquifer leak and agreed to pay for the additional future losses, a declared the MNR.

The state also fined Enbridge $ 20,000, the maximum permitted by state law. The fine would have been lifted if Enbridge had addressed the issue by Friday’s deadline.

The DNR referred the case to the Clearwater County District Attorney for possible criminal prosecution.

Enbridge will not challenge the requirements set out in the MNR order, Kellner said. She said the company provided all the information and paid the required penalty and mitigation amounts.

The rupture of the aquifer is a major mistake on one of the largest construction projects in recent state history. For months it was largely out of public view due to its rural location and the company failing to notify regulators.

Outraged environmental groups, scientists and Ojibwa gangs opposing the pipeline called the state’s coercive action in September too little, too late. They said the snap was exactly the kind of problem they expected in the Minnesota waterscape.

Frank Bibeau, an attorney representing the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, said on Saturday the group wanted to examine the length of the pipeline from the air using thermal imaging to look for other possible leaks. The water in an aquifer would be warmer than the surrounding ground, he said.

Band members speculated that the ground surrounding the rupture is too saturated for Enbridge to make repairs.

“This is what we believe is happening and this is why they missed the cleanup deadline,” Bibeau said. “Nobody says anything to anyone. That’s why we are setting up a flyover.”

Editor-in-chief Mike Hughlett contributed to this report.

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