FORT ATKINSON — Although Enbridge Energy waited more than one year to notify the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources of a spill on one of its pipelines near Fort Atkinson and Lake Koshkonong, the DNR said Monday that Enbridge is being cooperative in the investigation and remediation of the problem.
Trevor Nobile, a field operations director for the DNR, said Monday that Enbridge was still evaluating the circumstances that occurred within the case to determine what its future actions might be for remediation.
“We are meeting with Enbridge today on remedial actions to date,” Nobile said, adding the state agency will also be looking toward future actions Enbridge will be taking.
Known to the DNR as “Line 13,” the Southern Lights Pipeline starts in Manhattan, Illinois and runs through Wisconsin and Minnesota, delivering products to Enbridge’s Edmonton terminal in Alberta, Canada. According to Enbridge, the pipeline, which run near Black Hawk Island Road where the spill occurred, transports 180,000 barrels per day of petroleum diluent, which is used to dilute heavy oils for faster transport.
Enbridge said an alarm alerted its staff to the leak on April 26, 2019. After the incident, samples were taken from around the spill site to determine the source of the leak. It wasn’t until May 17 that the leak was identified as emanating from a faulty elbow joint. The leak was fixed on June 2.
Nobile said Enbridge continued to excavate the site and test soil and nearby wells for contamination, but the leak was not reported to the DNR until July 31, 2020. This was more than one year after the spill.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that, in November, the company reached the conclusion that 29 to 33 barrels of diluent were released into the ground.
Nobile said that, although his agency’s rules ask companies to report spills right away, it’s not uncommon for there to be a delay in reporting until more is known.
“But, he told the Journal Sentinel, “Enbridge has been proactive about meeting with the agency and keeping up with testing and remediation of the site.”
Discussing the situation as it stood late Monday morning, Nobile said the afternoon’s meeting would be a highly technical one, related to the site investigation and remediation work plan in which Enbridge would provide updates to the DNR. He said soil borings would be part of the discussion.
“In next week or so, we might know more information,” Nobile said, adding the study and remediation have ramped up substantially in the past two weeks. “This has been unfolding. We have been answering many questions and want to keep people apprised of progress.”
Nobile said the DNR will go over the recent submittal of information from Enbridge, and his agency is tracking progress on the investigation and remedial action.
“We are watching how it’s all going,” he said. “The responsible party (Enbridge Energy) has been very proactive with us in the process. The more proactive responsible parties are, the better.”
At this point, Nobile said, it is hard to determine a timeline for remediation.
“All of these sites have site-specific variables, so we don’t know how long a complete cleanup could take. It’s a little early and as this remediation progresses, we will know more. But they have made valuable strides on the degree and extent of (the spill) and their contaminated soil removal.”
Nobile said Enbridge has maintained regular communications with the DNR regarding the status of its remediation.
Nobile said it is not known whether the spill made it to Lake Koshkonong.
“We don’t know that, but as the investigation unfolds, we may know more,” he said. “But there has been soil contamination and groundwater contamination.”
The company is going to continue remediation efforts at the site, according to Juli Kellner, a communications staff member for Enbridge. She said the company will continue to work with landowners impacted by the spill and Nobile said the DNR is aware of this.
He said the DNR will not conduct testing of private wells, but any private well-owner who has concerns about water quality can sample it. Enbridge has also said it will test well water of private citizens whose wells might have been affected.
“But that would be between (the two parties),” Nobile said, adding Enbridge has been, “very proactive” in the investigation and remediation of the spill site so far.