The August 7th headline of the Daily Jefferson County Union entitled Firefighters Rosters Shrinking is concerning.
Read here (and weep).
This is a very disturbing headline at a time when the Enbridge Line 61 is being expanded to 1.2 million barrels, or 50,400,000 gallons per day. Enbridge has repeatedly reassured residents nearby the line that our fire departments and emergency response were up to the task in the event of a pipeline rupture. This story seems to indicate this is not the case, and that monetary gifts from Enbridge to the fire departments and/or EMS, in the areas of the pipeline are not sufficient to respond to a disaster.
It’s particularly troubling that the Hazardous Materials Team is threatened. The oil in these lines is explosive. The pipelines contain natural gas condensates, hydrogen sulfide gas, benzene, toulene, xylene and other ‘proprietary’ chemicals that Enbridge does not feel the public should know about. In the event of a full bore rupture on Line 61, such as the one that occurred in Marshall MI, in one hour, 650,000 gallons of toxic gas will spill out along with the 1.5 million gallons of the liquid portion of dilbit. Much of this gas is heavier than air and will follow the topography to low lying areas and is less likely to disperse with the wind. We live in drumlin country, with hills and low wetlands in some areas. We also live among rivers and lakes. We have lots of dead end roads where residents will have difficulty exiting the spill area. Residents could have to traverse rugged terrain to get out of a gas filled area, maybe in the dark, without flashlights, maybe in the winter, perhaps with young children, or disabled or elderly….and now, those who we look to for assistance, our first responers, are in very short supply.
Line 61 and Line 6a, which is 50 years old, both carry tar sands oil or dilbit. Line 6a is running so hot, it melts snow in the winter and glows green with grass in very early spring. We don’t have just one tars sands line, we have 2, including the world’s biggest tars sands pipeline, plus a diluent line and another crude line….and now, it looks like we may not have a Hazardous Materials Team.
This concern is magnified by the fact that Enbridge has announced plans to expand the corridor in their forward looking financial statements, to include a Line 61-Twin slated to carry the highly explosive Bakken oil at a rate of 550,000 barrels per day. Then there is the matter of why the corridor is so large on their aerial survey and the matter of Line 66. What else does Enbridge plan to put in there and do we really have the resources to ensure our safety? The disclosures in this article put a lot of doubt in my mind that we can keep our first responders safe and rescue our residents in the area of the pipeline, let alone try to mitigate any environmental risk.
I have been a first responder and I have a clue to response time. I also know how devoted emergency personnel are. I respect everything they do. The problem is, when you have a huge hazard like this in your community, you need a full time fire department and a Hazardous Material Team. This is not meant to insult our firefighters, but rather to illustrate the difficult position that Enbridge has put them and our entire community in. Our emergency responders are at risk, too and given Enbridge supposedly does their training, it’s a concern.
If you live on the corridor, it’s time to develop a personal safety plan for your family. You can and should read the Enbridge brochure. You can also read my answer to their brochure below, with my comments made after the asterisk in italics * and really think through what your best survival strategy is. You want to stay alive and stay well.
You should have received a brochure from Enbridge. If not, here is their plan, keep in mind, the snark is my addition.
” EMERGENCY INFORMATION Given our thorough maintenance, testing, training, monitoring and safety programs, a pipeline leak is unlikely. In the event of an incident, Enbridge will work with local emergency responders to secure the area and get you the information you need to stay safe.”
***Given today’s headline, that may be a bit of an issue.
“The warning signs
Be observant of unusual sights, sounds and odors along the right of-way and immediately report anything out of the ordinary by calling Enbridge’s 24-hour emergency number for your area.
You might see:
• Liquid on the ground
• Discolored snow or vegetation
• Oily sheen on water surfaces
You might hear:
• A roaring, blowing or hissing sound”
*** You are screwed.
“You might smell:
• An unusual skunk or rotten egg odor”
***You are once again, screwed. You are snorting hydrogen sulfide gas.
“A safe response
1. If you can do so safely, turn off any mechanized equipment. Move as far away from the leak as possible in an upwind direction.”
***provided that upwind is not downhill
“2. Avoid contact with escaping liquids and gases
3. Call 911
***Wait, don’t use the phone! Stand there and yell 911, or not.
4. Call the toll-free, 24-hour Enbridge emergency number for your area: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Eastern Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Pembina County, North Dakota: 800-858-5253. North Dakota, Montana and Polk County, Minnesota: 888-838-4545 Mississippi: 888-650-8099 5. Follow instructions provided to you by Enbridge and local emergency responders”
***Who once again, are in short supply and we don’t know if we will have a Hazardous Materials Team. Wait! Don’t use your phone! Just stand there and yell and maybe they will hear you, or not!
“What NOT to do in an emergency situation:
• Do not touch any liquid or vapor that may have come from the pipeline
• Do not drive into the area or start your car”
“• Do not light a match”
“• Do not turn on or off anything that may create a spark, including cell phones, telephones, light switches, vehicle alarms and flashlights”
***Good luck in the dark, thru the wetlands….over the thin ice as you go upwind and not downhill, carrying your three kids and towing your two dogs and three cats, and good luck making those emergency phone calls.
“• Do not operate pipeline valves If you do not know the location of the pipeline leak, shelter-in-place and wait for additional instructions for emergency responders or Enbridge:”
***Keep in mind it took 17 hours in Kalamazoo—that gas may do you in and once again, those poor mutual aid emergency responders may have quite a drive to get here.
“• Immediately go indoors and close all windows and outside doors”
***unless you have to run for your life due to spewing oil, loud hissing noise, or lack of breathable air.
“• Turn off appliances or equipment that circulate air, such as exhaust fans, gas fireplaces, gas stoves, heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems
***Yeah, like you are thinking about this.
• Turn down furnace thermostats to the minimum setting
• Leave open all inside doors
• Avoid using the telephone, except for emergencies, so that you can be contacted by emergency response personnel”
***Who, once again, may or may not arrive because we don’t have enough of them because we have volunteers who are barely paid and they have to work jobs and they may not be at the fire station.
“• Stay tuned to local radio (battery-operated) for possible information updates”
***But don’t turn it on, it makes a spark. Just sit there look at it and lip sync directions.
“• Even if you see people outside, do not leave until told to do so by local emergency responders”
***Which may arrive sooner or later, probably later, because we don’t have a full time fire department and we are short on volunteers.
“What happens next?”
“• Enbridge and local emergency responders will work as a team to control the situation; public safety will be the top priority ”
****Public safety is such a priority for Enbridge that homes are located well within the 1000 foot distance zone recommendation made by PHMSA
“• Enbridge personnel may shut down or isolate sections of the pipeline”
***Yay, they got one thing right. Hope it doesn’t take 17 hours.
“• Local emergency responders will oversee public safety measures, such as securing the scene, disseminating information, determining and implementing evacuation procedures, and providing medical aid and search and rescue as needed”
*** After reading today’s headline, I’m pretty terrified for folks.
“• Enbridge will work with applicable agencies to remediate any impacts caused by the leak.”
***Yep, like you say, it will be cleaner than it was before….
The fact is, most of Enbridge’s plan relies on our local emergency responders. Most of our local emergency responders are volunteer. Due to the economy, many of our eligible volunteers are working far away. It’s very hard to staff emergency services, especially during the day. It’s hard living your life on call, as well. Things have changed and our economic and social situations don’t allow for able bodied people to be available to staff daytime openings in our emergency units. Never the less, we have 4 dangerous pipelines which could at any time, rupture. Not to mention, bomb trains.
Maybe it’s time that Enbridge starts paying the bill to guarantee our safety. Fund a full time paid fire department in every town along the line and Hazardous Material Teams in each county. It’s the least Enbridge can do since you stuck us with this mess so you can make profit.
Enbridge, you can keep the Ford F150s.
If any readers are inclined to want more information or to join our resistance, yes, RESISTANCE (because what is going on is just plain wrong), ask to join Brave Wisconsin.