Witness Says Enbridge's Wisconsin Pipeline 'Blew Like an Oil Well'
Enbridge won’t be allowed to reopen the line until it meets demands of federal regulators. Transportation secretary calls accident 'totally unacceptable.'
By David Hasemyer, InsideClimate News
When Kristin Wettstein spotted a geyser of oil spewing from the ground in a pasture across from her New Chester, Wis., house, she called 911 and described the unfolding scene.
"It just blew like an oil well," she told the dispatcher for the Adams County, Wis. Sheriff's Department on Friday afternoon.
The gushing crude oil raining down on a six-acre plot of wild grass and livestock belonged to Enbridge, a Canadian pipeline company already facing a record $3.7 million fine for a 1 million gallon oil pipeline rupture that closed 36 miles of Michigan's Kalamazoo River in 2010. That line and the line that ruptured in Wisconsin are both part of Enbridge's 1,900-mile Lakehead System.
Before the black fountain near Wettstein's place was turned off, Enbridge estimated that 1,200 barrels of crude oil—or a little more than 50,000 gallons—had fouled the field and set in motion a scramble to clean up the mess, fix the rupture and assess the risk to drinking water wells.
The spill drew the ire of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and the transportation department's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which regulates the nation's pipelines.