[SUSTAINABILITY & ETHICS] Line 3 in use, destruction arises


Reprinted with permission: Ron Turney, Indigenous Environmental Network

Enbridge holds wastewater in a makeshift pool which allows the contaminated water to run off into the local prairie and woods, while they pump it to another location.

Barely three days after oil first flowed through the new Line 3 pipeline, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources released information on the environmental destruction caused by the pipeline.

Construction punctured aquifers in January, and Artesian groundwater in the rural community of Clearwater County has been welling up since then. Twenty-four million gallons of water have been wasted, according to an article published in the Star Tribune on Oct. 4, increasing the risk of drying out rare wetland areas, or fens. The fens are home to many threatened plants and other species, as they are one of the rarest freshwater ecosystems.

State regulators forced the construction company Enbridge to launch a cleanup effort. Because of its rural location and Enbridge not reporting the incident, the DNR only addressed the issue when they discovered it in mid-September. The DNR fined Enbridge $3.3 million for damage caused to the aquifers and gave the company a month to stop the water flow.

Senior Grant Mortenson said, “I believe that 3 million is nowhere near enough to cover the damages caused by this destruction. Aquifers and rare ecosystems are fragile and take an extremely long amount of time to form and fully develop. 3 million dollars cannot begin to cover the restoration of these damages, and it is almost shocking to think such a small amount was even considered, let alone agreed upon. How can we make a company pay 3 million for something that is priceless?”

Enbridge has until Oct. 15 to fix the issue. Currently, the plan is to drill a new well to pump the leaked water into and then inject a clay and cement mixture into the ground to seal the leak. The company will install 400 two-inch pipes to inject the grout into the ground. If the small pipes don’t stop the leak, the next step would be to install eight-foot-wide columns of grout. The DNR is investigating the incident for potential criminal charges.

How can we make a company pay 3 million for something that is priceless?

— Grant Mortenson

Junior Valerie Wick said, “I think it’s clearer than ever that Line 3 shouldn’t have been built in the first place. First of all, Line 3 encroaches on the treaty of rights imposed upon the Anishinaabeg people in 1855, which states that the U.S. government would protect primary areas for fishing, hunting, or the growth of wild rice or interfere with the land of cultural importance to the Anishinaabeg people within the treaty territory. Frankly, I think this kind of blatant disrespect is an embarrassment to state regulators and the U.S. government. And if that wasn’t enough, Line 3 is cancerous to its surrounding environment.”

Environmental groups, scientists, and Native Americans protested the construction of Line 3 in fear of the possibility of this issue and similar environmentally devastating situations. Many Native American water protectors believe that the incident was completely avoidable if state regulators listened to them. For instance, White Earth tribal lawyer Frank Bibeau debated that the DNR would have known about the punctured aquifer earlier if they held a public hearing, which water protectors requested, before giving Enbridge access to more water and land. DNR Deputy Commissioner Barb Naramore reported that a public hearing wouldn’t have prevented the incident and that they have no control over the use of the pipeline, even if it is harming the environment.

If in opposition to Line 3, information about water protection and activism can be found at Stop Line 3.

This article was updated with a link to the Sept. 16 DNR statement, and the sourcing of the information that had been hotlinked about leaked gallons and fens is now articulated in the sentence. The second person was edited out of the final sentence.