Three months after missing the initial deadline to repair an underground aquifer breach caused during Line 3 replacement work, Enbridge says it has stopped the uncontrolled groundwater flow near Clearbrook Terminal.
The pipeline company informed the Minnesota DNR on Tuesday that it had "successfully stopped the flow of groundwater at the Clearbrook site," DNR spokesperson Gail Nosek told Bring Me The News.
"DNR will continue to assess current conditions and monitor the aquifer breach repair for long-term effectiveness," Nosek added.
Enbridge, in a statement said it can "confirm the groundwater flow has been stopped at Clearbrook," adding the company has informed the DNR.
"We will continue to work closely with the DNR on ongoing monitoring activities," Enbridge added.
The energy company had initially been fined more than $3 million in September of 2021 for breaching a groundwater aquifer during Line 3 pipeline construction, then not telling state regulators about it. The DNR gave Enbridge 30 days to fix its mistake, which was caused when the company "did not follow the construction plans it had provided," the department wrote in a Sept. 16 news release.
Instead of constructing a trench 8-10 feet down, the company went as deep as 18 feet, with sheet piling inserted 28 feet into the ground. This broke through the outer layer of an artesian aquifer, spilling 24.2 million gallons of water between the date of the breach in early 2021 and Sept. 5, the DNR said.
Enbridge then missed the mid-October repair deadline, with Enbridge agreeing to pay another $40,000 to compensate for 30 days' worth of lost groundwater. The company also agreed to pay for future losses and not appeal the September order.
The Clearbrook Terminal is about 25 miles northwest of the Mississippi Headwaters.
On Jan. 4, 2022, Bring Me The News reached out to Enbridge to ask about the status of its remediation work at the Clearbrook breach site. Over the next seven days, a company spokesperson repeatedly stated "progress" had been made, but declined to provide any specific about what that meant, or whether the uncontrolled groundwater flow had been at all mitigated since the missed October deadline.
The DNR, before the update from Enbridge Tuesday, had also told Bring Me The News "progress" was being made, but said it couldn't provide specifics due to the ongoing investigation.
The agency did, however, promise "Enbridge will be held accountable for the loss of groundwater and any other environmental damages under DNR’s jurisdiction that result from the breaches."
In October, the DNR said that it was investigating two other sites, in addition to Clearbrook, where Enbridge may have illegally pierced a groundwater aquifer. The department, when asked about these investigations Thursday, said they were ongoing and it could not comment.
Enbridge is also facing potential penalties from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which in August said it had found 28 instances of Enbridge releasing drilling fluid during Line 3 construction, 12 of which occurred at a river crossing. Thirteen of the releases were into wetlands, which is a violation, the agency had said.
The Line 3 replacement pipeline began carrying oil on Oct. 1. It will ultimately be able to transport 760,000 barrels' worth of crude oil every day, at a time the U.S. and the wider world has experienced a series of climate change-exacerbated weather disasters.