Protecting our water is a top priority

One of our greatest treasures here in Michigan is our water — the Great Lakes, fresh water inland lakes, rivers and streams. It is my constitutional responsibility as a state representative, and my duty as a northern Michigander to ensure that we protect this incredible natural resource.

Currently, I am extremely concerned about two matters that threaten our water, the first is a 64-year-old oil pipeline running under the Straits of Mackinac.

In a meeting shortly after I took office, an Enbridge official looked me in the eye and told me that the Line 5 oil pipeline was in no way compromised. Then, after months of delayed, canceled and inaccurate reports, it was revealed that Enbridge not only knew about damage in the protective coating on a portion of the pipeline since 2014, but that they failed to disclose it.

It is apparent that Enbridge is lying to state legislators and the damage is even more extensive than company officials previously revealed. Recently, we learned that during the current inspection process of anchor locations, just under half of the sites have coating gaps – which is a direct violation of their easement.

I become more and more disgusted with Enbridge after each new tidbit of information trickles out. They claim the coating gaps are not a safety threat, but after they betrayed my — and your — trust, I don’t know if what they’re saying is fact or fake news. But at the end of the day, I can’t help but imagine the devastation an oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac could cause.

One recent projection showed that a “worst-case scenario” Line 5 oil spill would impact 700 miles of Great Lakes coastline, more than 60 percent of Lake Huron’s open water, and more than 15 percent of Lake Michigan’s open water.

That’s not a chance I’m willing to take on a company with a history of lying and twisting the truth.

I look forward to learning more about alternative options for transporting the 540,000 barrels of crude oil and natural gas that run through Line 5 each day in the study released this week. I also plan to be in attendance when Enbridge gives the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board a full account of the pipeline’s condition on Dec. 11 in Lansing.

It’s time for Enbridge to cut the “bull-manure” and provide an accurate account of the pipeline’s deficiencies so they can be addressed. With more than 150 miles of Lake Huron shoreline, the stakes are higher in our district than almost any other in the state. If Enbridge can’t be completely transparent, they don’t deserve to continue operating Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac.

The second issue is the new and rapidly growing problem of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) contaminating groundwater and creating toxic plumes. There is evidence of severe health issues in animals that consume PFC/PFAS, and we know that the chemicals build up in the human system. This problem is so new, however, that the science is still out on long-term effects.

Two different locations in our district have already been hit hard by water contamination from toxic chemicals found in firefighting foam used at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center and the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda. While the use of PFCs and similar substances on the military bases dates back years, these chemicals are being found at higher than suggested health levels today.

I’m currently working on legislation that would protect people and the environment from the harmful effects of contamination by requiring any business or entity that utilizes products containing PFCs or similar substances to undergo special training. I have also communicated my demand that any remaining stockpiled firefighting foam responsible for the damage at both Oscoda and Alpena stop being used immediately. Such action is common sense and appropriate.

It is my duty as a state representative to look out for the health, safety and welfare of the people I serve. I’m committed to working hard to prevent future water contamination, and I’m closely monitoring any and all reports on Line 5. Enough is enough!

State Rep. Sue Allor, of Wolverine, is serving her first term in the Michigan House representing the people of Alpena, Presque Isle, Alcona and Iosco counties, as well as part of Cheboygan County. She previously served three terms as a Cheboygan County Commissioner.