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Mock oil spill draws first responders and protesters

May 25, 2016

U.S. and Canadian government agencies took part in a mock oil spill drill along the St. Clair River just south of Port Huron today.

With temperatures in the low 80s and a light breeze, it was a lovely day to respond to a fake disaster.

But while a few first responders spent a sunny day on boats in the river, most of the more than 200 people taking part in the exercise spent their time indoors dealing with a scenario for a fictional disaster that included the need to corral thousands of barrels of oil leaking from Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline.  

“We’re looking into issues (including) … if there was a spill at this location, how would it affect the drinking water of local personnel, as well as other environmental factors,” says Lt. Ben Chamberlain, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman. 

Similar drills have taken place in northern Michigan and in the Mackinac Straits, where Line 5 snakes its way through Michigan.

Stephen Lloyd is the senior manager for emergency management for Enbridge pipelines. He says drills like this are about more than going through the mechanics of responding to an oil spill

“We just want to make sure we’re not handing out our business card and introducing ourselves in a real event,” says Lloyd. “These are the kinds of things you do to make sure you’re connected prior to a real incident.”

The mock oil spill drew real protesters. A variety of environmental groups want the pipeline shut down to avoid any possibility of a major spill.

Mariah Urueta is with Food & Water Watch. She says a potential leak from Enbridge’s Line 5 “poses too great a risk to our Great Lakes.”

Environmentalists say Line 5 not only poses a threat where it crosses into Canada across the St. Clair River, but also where it runs beneath the Mackinac Straits. 

In full disclosure, Enbridge Energy is a financial supporter of Michigan Radio.