Enbridge needed more than 20,000 cubic feet of grout (concrete) to plug Line 3 aquifer breach near Fond du Lac

A photo essay

In 2021, Enbridge Line 3 construction workers breached an aquifer in St. Louis County, just 400 feet west of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa reservation.

Enbridge hadn’t done — nor did the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) require — any analysis of the area’s hydrology.

This was one of at least three such aquifer breaches created by Line 3 construction, a violation of Enbridge’s permit and state law.

The St. Louis County breach:

  • Took nearly seven months to repair. (The breach occurred Sept. 10, 2021 and the repair was reported complete on April 7.)
  • Released more than 263 million gallons of groundwater.
  • Required 24/7 grouting activities (think cement) to repair, starting March 8 and finishing April 5 (with two pauses to check for effectiveness).
  • Required more than 20,000 cubic feet of grout to fix, according to Enbridge’s final report on the repair. (That’s enough grout to build a wall two-feet thick, 20-feet tall, and 500-feet long.)
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DNR evades key questions about Enbridge’s Clearbrook aquifer breach

Maybe it doesn’t know the answer. Maybe it’s just not telling. Either way, it’s bad.

If a contractor working on your house damaged your foundation, wouldn’t your first question be: “Why did this happen?”

Nearly two years ago, workers building the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline failed to follow construction plans and broke through an aquifer in Clearwater County, known as the Clearbrook breach. It wouldn’t get fixed for a year and would release 72.8 million gallons of groundwater.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced sanctions, but has yet to explain why Line 3 workers didn’t follow construction plans and damaged the aquifer.

Further Enbridge should have reported the aquifer breach right away. The DNR wouldn’t learn about the violation for four-plus months. (And the DNR didn’t learn about it from Enbridge, but indirectly from Independent Environmental Monitors.)

The DNR still hasn’t explained why Enbridge didn’t report the aquifer breach in a timely manner.

In announcing sanctions Sept. 16, DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen said: “This never should have happened, and we are holding the company fully accountable.”

However, the DNR is failing to answer these critical questions about the breach, and without transparency there is no accountability.

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Judge dismisses charges against five of the ‘Shell River Seven’ who opposed Line 3

Honor the Earth envisions Line 3 exhibit in Park Rapids

Shell River Seven standoff

A District Court judge in Wadena County Monday dismissed gross misdemeanor charges against five of the “Shell River Seven” who peacefully tried to protect the Shell River and Anishinaabe treaty rights against the construction of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline.

“Criminalizing and over-charging protestors is a common tactic used by the State to scare activists and suppress movements,” Claire Glenn, an attorney for two of the defendants, said in a media release. “The criminalization of the Shell River defendants was no exception, and this dismissal is a powerful victory for water protectors.”

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Volunteers spotlight more groundwater problems apparently created during Line 3 pipeline construction

State environmental watchdogs are investigating, but not releasing any details

Video screen grab showing construction matting at Walker Brook.

This a corrected version of an earlier blog. The original version incorrectly said the DNR and MPCA made a joint statement about the Walker Brook situation. This post includes their separate statements. The previous post has been taken down. I regret the error.

More environmental damage is coming to light from construction of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline, and its due to citizen volunteers.

The group Waadookawaad Amikwag (Anishinaabe for “Those Who Help Beaver”) has been monitoring the construction corridor for unreported environmental damage out of concern that state regulators weren’t paying attention to it.

Waadookawaad Amikwag released a video this week of what they say is a fourth cold underground water breach, this one where Line 3 crosses Walker Brook South in Clearwater County.

The DNR denies that there is an aquifer breach, suggesting it is “an upwelling of shallow groundwater resources that has complicated site restoration.”

(The DNR’s statement is silent on the connection between Line 3 construction and the upwelling of shallow groundwater or how much groundwater has upwelled.)

This comes on top of three Line 3 aquifer breaches we already know about: Clearbrook, LaSalle Creek, and Fond du Lac.

All this environmental damage falls disproportionately on the Anishinaabe (Chippewa and Ojibwe) nations in northern Minnesota. In approving Line 3’s Certificate of Need, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission “expressed serious concern with the Project’s impacts to indigenous populations, acknowledging that the Project would traverse ceded territories where Minnesota’s Ojibwe and Chippewa tribes hold … hunting, fishing, and gathering rights.”

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State says it held Enbridge accountable for Line 3 damage, despite evidence to the contrary

Say a bank robber gets a jaywalking ticket while making his hasty escape, but still gets to keep the loot. That’s not justice.

Say a multinational company gets a small-fine misdemeanor for willfully damaging Minnesota’s environment and gets to keep its profits. That’s not justice, either.

Yet that’s what’s happened with Enbridge, which ruptured at least three aquifers while building its Line 3 crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota.

On Monday, the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, and separately the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), issued media releases announcing penalties they’ve imposed.

The penalties are meager, the accountability paper thin.

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A hard look at the State of MN’s commitment to ‘meaningful consultation’ with Native Nations

Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan failed miserably to live up to the spirit of their pledge of “meaningful consultation” with Native Nations. Examples include the state’s approval of Enbridge Line 3, MinnTac mine’s ongoing wild-rice-damaging pollution, the proposed Huber Lumber mill, and other environmental issues.

All state agencies are required to have tribal consultation policies on file with the Governor’s Office. Healing Minnesota Stories obtained copies through a Data Practices Act request.

The “meaningful consultation’ agencies provide don’t include any accountability or enforcement measures. Agencies aren’t transparent on how Tribal consultation affects their decisions.

A state law passed last year could strengthen the practice of “meaningful consultation.” Only time will tell.

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As many as six new aquifer breaches possible along Enbridge Line 3 route, court filing says

It’s part of Manoomin (wild rice) litigation before White Earth Appeals Court

The construction of Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline resulted in as many as six aquifer breaches, in addition to the three we already know about.

That information was included in a Friday filing with the White Earth Appeals Court by Manoomin (wild rice), the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, and others. It was part of a formal request that the court reconsider their complaint against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for granting Enbridge massive dewatering permits to build Line 3. That dewatering damaged Manoomin and harmed the well being of White Earth residents, the filing said.

The White Earth Court of Appeals dismissed the case March 10. Plaintiffs have provided new information to bolster their motion for reconsideration.

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White Earth Appeals Court dismisses Right of Manoomin suit; Canada tries to sell Indigenous groups the Trans Mountain Pipeline: Buyer Beware!

In this post:

  • White Earth Court of Appeals dismisses Rights of Manoomin (wild rice) suit against DNR
  • Canadian government’s effort to get First Nations to buy financially troubled Trans Mountain pipeline seems cynical
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