By Susan Bromley
Brandon Twp.-On Tuesday, two years after construction of a controversial oil pipeline pump station in the township was completed, Enbridge Energy staff offered tours of the 12,000 square-foot facility.
Neighbors of the pump station located on 3 acres at 3403 Seymour Lake Road, just northeast of Cook’s Farm Dairy, were invited, as well as township officials and media, although the hour-long tours were staggered depending on groups, with the invitation’s stated intent for all to “learn more about the purpose and operation of a pump station facility and how Enbridge’s pipeline system serves as a vital link to stable and reliable North American crude oil supplies for the U.S. Midwest.”
“We are capable of pumping 500,000 barrels (of crude oil) per day,” said John Gauderman, Enbridge Chicago Region Director. “We are currently pumping 350,000 per day. It’s a smooth-running station.”
Enbridge announced plans in late 2011 to replace the Line 6B petroleum pipeline, a project that spans 210 miles in total, from Griffith, Ind. to Sarnia, Ont.
Enbridge was responsible for one of the largest
oil spills in U.S. history, the 2010 Marshall, Mich. disaster in which 1 million gallons of crude oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River from a rupture in Line 6B. Replacement of Line 6B involved installing all new pipeline alongside the existing pipeline, which was deactivated and capped. Enbridge recently signed an agreement with the state of Michigan to never again use the old pipeline.
Construction on the new Line 6B began in 2012 in the township on the 6 miles of pipeline that travels through the township, but the project had some hurdles, drawing the ire of township officials and neighbors, particularly after the multi-billion dollar company failed to obtain proper permits and violated township ordinances.
Pump station construction began in late 2013, and certain conditions were to be met for operation of the facility, including no appreciable noise increase in the residential area in which the station is located. However, there were complaints from neighbors about noise, during both construction of the station, as well as following its completion from the 6,000 horsepower pumps housed in the facility. Other complaints included promised work on landscaping not being completed, as well as road issues.
“The neighbors have been good,” said Gauderman on Tuesday. “There were issues we had to resolve— water drainage and right of way restoration. They’ve been good and we’re working to address concerns.”
Susan Evans, a Sarah’s Way resident whose property is adjacent to the pump station, wrote in an email to The Citizen that Enbridge was apologetic for the hardships they have caused and vowed to rectify any wrongs they have made.
“Unfortunately, this is something their neighbors have heard many times and actions speak louder than words,” she said. “The values of our homes have declined, and the noise level within our home has increased at least 30 decibels due to their added power supply. During township zoning board meetings in the past, Enbridge vowed that the noise level would not increase… The neighbors around the Ortonville Enbridge Pump Station hope that the worst is over and this company has honest, well-meaning employees, however, this has yet to been seen.”
Outside of the 35-foot tall pump station, when the door is closed, a low humming can be heard. Inside, the noise ratchets up. There are three pumps located inside, although only one is in use to pump the current 350,000 barrels of oil daily. If demand for oil increased, multiple pumps would be used. The one pump is currently at 92 percent capacity. The oil being pumped into the station arrives at 90 pounds of pressure, and it leaves the station at 400 pounds of pressure.
Gauderman, as well as Brian Buck, Bay City operations manager,show visitors safety equipment in the pump station and adjacent breaker building that includes hydrocarbon detectors, vibration monitors, temperature and pressure sensors and an ultrasonic flow meter that detects flow of oil in the pipe, all of which are automated, alarmed and will shut operations down in the event of an emergency, Gauderman said. In the breaker building is a human machine interface screen, and he explains all terminals are operated from a control center in Edmonton, Alberta, Can.
The Ortonville station is not manned 24/7.
There are no surveillance video cameras. Asked why not, Gauderman responds that he does not know.
Lara Hamsher, community relations adviser for Enbridge, offers, “Cameras are something we are taking into consideration. It’s not something that has been an issue at this point. Primary monitoring is through the control center.”
Trent Bedell, pump station technician, works five days a week, splitting his time between the Ortonville station, and another pump station in North Branch. He conducts maintenance, making sure the motors are running, valves are moving, checking transmitters and performing routine maintenance.
“All equipment has prescribed maintenance,” said Gauderman. “Some of it is weekly, some monthly, some bi-monthly, some every three years.”
Bedell is available for emergency call-outs, when a transmitter goes out or there is a power outage.
Gauderman informs Brandon Township Supervisor Kathy Thurman and Township Trustee Bill DeWitt, also along on the tour, that there are Safe Community grants available that Enbridge gives yearly in amounts ranging from $500-$1,500, and also offers free training online for fire departments in the communities in which the pipeline travels.
“We were told if there’s a fire (at the pump station), our firefighters should stay outside of the fence and call Enbridge,” said Thurman.
Gauderman responded, “If there’s a fire, the real answer is, ‘It depends.’ If they don’t have (our) training, we don’t want them to get too close. If there is a fire or oil on the ground, their involvement would depend on the extent of their training.”
In wrapping up the tour, Gauderman said there are no active plans to install a fourth pump, although the facility is large enough to do so.
“We’ve been in Michigan for 60 years, and we have people that live in the community and we want to be a part of the community,” he said. “We work diligently to resolve issues. If there are any issues, contact us.”
For more information, visit www.enbridge.com.