Pipeline Failure Demonstrates Risk to Great Lakes

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THUNDER BAY – In letters sent to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Secretary of State, the International Joint Commission (Commission) highlighted the potential ecological and economic costs that could arise if a large release of hazardous polluting substances were to occur in our shared waters. “The rupture of the Enbridge pipeline caused the release of some 800,000 gallons of crude oil, with much of it leaking into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River, which flows to Lake Michigan.”

This pipeline failure raises questions about the integrity of this vast network and reminds us of the potential consequences a spill could have on both countries. In response to this significant and damaging incident, the Commission reiterates the importance of the findings in its 2006 Report on Spills in the Great Lakes Basin. Specifically, it notes that better monitoring, accurate detection and speedy notification are required to reduce harmful human and ecosystem impacts.

“This oil leak is a reminder of the huge ecological costs associated with an industrial release of such magnitude, not to mention the associated economic cost,” said the Hon. Joe Comuzzi, Canadian Chair.

“The Commission urges federal, state, and local governments to take every safeguard and precaution available to prevent future spills and to ensure rapid response plans are in place,” said U.S. Chair Lana Pollack. “While the response to our previous recommendations has been in the right direction, clearly much more needs to be done to make sure an ecological tragedy like this never happens again.”

The Commission recognizes that pipelines, along with gas and oil drilling, pose a risk to boundary waters and is in the process of gathering further information to provide more specific recommendations to protect the Great Lakes. The findings may be applicable to other shared waters.

The International Joint Commission prevents and resolves disputes between the United States of America and Canada under the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty and pursues the common good of both countries as an independent and objective advisor to the two governments.

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