Small leak reported from natural gas pipeline in Michigan

JOHN FLESHER, AP Environmental Writer

Officials say a small volume of liquid natural gas escaped into the atmosphere this month from a "pinhole" opening in a pipeline in the Upper Peninsula.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Officials say a small volume of liquid natural gas escaped into the atmosphere this month from a "pinhole" opening in an Enbridge Energy Partners LP pipeline in the Upper Peninsula.

The Dec. 8 leak near Manistique was from a pipe known as Line 5. It was disclosed this week to a task force of state agencies investigating the safety of petroleum pipelines in Michigan.

Enbridge spokesman Jason Manshum tells The Associated Press on Tuesday that company workers discovered the leak while performing scheduled maintenance. He says the opening could not be seen with the naked eye, but workers noticed a "wet spot" the size of a dime on a weld where gas had escaped.

Manshum says only a trace was released and immediately vaporized, so there was no environmental damage and no cleanup required.

Line 5 runs from North Dakota to Sarnia, Ontario, and at times carries crude oil. It has been targeted by environmental groups because a 4.5-mile segment runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac where Lakes Huron and Michigan converge. The segment was laid in 1953 and activists contend it's unsafe, which the company denies.

A coalition called Monday for a public evaluation of potential leak dangers and whether the segment should be upgraded or removed.

Manshum says Enbridge's handling of the pinhole leak shows the company's maintenance and integrity program is working. He says the leak was fixed and the line is operating normally. The leak happened about 90 miles west of the Straits area.

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