WSW: Documentary "Beneath The Surface" Examines Line 5 History and Controversy

May 2, 2018

The Mackinac Bridge from the Straits of Mackinac
Credit Gregory Varnum / Wikimedia Commons

Mary Ellen Geist says the Enbridge Energy pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac is mysterious in part because it’s so far down under water. The Great Lakes Bureau Chief for Detroit Public Television says the documentary Beneath the Surface: The Line 5 Pipeline in the Great Lakes answers some of the questions about the pipeline, its purpose and the risks.


Early in the film, Beth Wallace tells us about her hometown in Marshall, and the massive oil spill on the Kalamazoo River in 2010 from a ruptured Enbridge pipeline. Geist says Wallace’s research for the National Wildlife helped draw public attention to Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline in Straits of Mackinac.

Geist says Enbridge cooperated with her on the documentary. The company’s Communication Strategist Ryan Duffy was interviewed extensively. Duffy admits Enbridge made mistakes with the 2010 oil spill near Marshall. He says the company has changed its ways. But Geist says it’s still a self-reporting industry, and problems only come to light when the company reveals them.

The documentary delves into the history of Line 5. Geist says the pipeline was built by the same engineers who built the Mackinac Bridge. She says at the time, pipeline was considered the safest way to move oil, and was the environmentally sound option. But Geist says the pipeline is 65 years old, and more questions are being raised about whether there are better options.

In November, Governor Rick Snyder announced an agreement with Enbirdge for the company to replace a section of Line 5, and take other safety precautions. Geist says that agreement also raised questions about transparency. She says despite repeated attempts, an interview with Governor Snyder could not be scheduled.

Image from Wikimedia Commons