- Associated Press - Sunday, May 8, 2016

DETROIT (AP) - U.S. Forest Service officials are awaiting results from groundwater monitoring wells to help determine environmental damage caused by an oil spill in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in 1980, which they say they were unaware of until 2012.

The Detroit Free Press reports (http://on.freep.com/24DFk4H) the Forest Service says it doesn’t have enough information to evaluate the effects of the spill from Enbridge Co.’s Line 5. Groundwater monitoring wells were installed late last summer and so far contaminants have not been detected. The Forest Service is awaiting results from a March sampling.

The Forest Service hasn’t yet talked with Enbridge about possible penalties.

“Given the time lapse and the fact that the spill occurred under an old permit, we want to make an informed decision to protect the resource. As more information becomes available, we will take further action,” Forest Service officials said in a statement.

Enbridge said in a filing last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it expects $62 million in fines and penalties for an unrelated spill in Michigan in 2010, when about 20,000 barrels of oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River system.

Rep. Candice Miller, a Michigan Republican, has introduced legislation that would require an 18-month study to determine whether the pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac poses a significant risk to the Great Lakes.

In the Upper Peninsula case, Enbridge say it has cleaned up all but one of the five barrels of oil that leaked from a pipeline in the Hiawatha National Forest in the Upper Peninsula around 1980. Enbridge contractors revisited the spill site in 2011 and found high levels of harmful, petroleum-related chemicals in forest land and the water table beneath it. They removed 825 tons of soil from the site and requested permission from the Forest Service to install groundwater monitoring wells the following year.

Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy said the spill was discovered in late July 1980 and the company acted quickly, notifying state and federal officials on July 28, 1980. He didn’t specify why Enbridge chose to look at the area again in 2011.

Coleman Engineering found in 2011 that three soil samples and two of four groundwater samples “exceeded cleanup criteria” for volatile organic compounds under the Michigan Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, according to Enbridge’s environmental analysis presented to the Forest Service. Three groundwater samples also exceeded DEQ cleanup criteria for polynuclear aromatics, or PNAs.

Both volatile organic compounds and PNAs are known carcinogens.

Coleman returned to the site more than nine months later, in May 2012, to conduct further soil sample tests and attempt to “assess the extent and magnitude” of the oil spill, Enbridge’s environmental analysis states. “Seven soil samples exhibited results which exceeded MDEQ Cleanup Criteria,” the analysis states.

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Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com

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