New Detroit Public TV Documentary Explores Line 5 Pipeline Under Mackinac Straits

Laura Weber Davis/WDET

Mary Ellen Geist (left) with Beth Wallace (right)

There’s a pervasive fear among environmentalists that it will take a catastrophe — such as oil flowing out of the Line 5 oil and gas pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac and into our waterways — for officials to understand how grave the situation is in the Great Lakes.

Line 5 is 65 years old. Every few months, it seems, we are reminded of the precariousness of its condition.

In recent weeks a dragging anchor on a large vessel knocked three dents in the line, and ruptured a coolant line, spilling its chemicals into the Great Lakes.

We only know about damage when it occurs because of self-reporting, as was the case when VanEnkevort Tug and Barge reported the recent anchor incident. That self-reporting goes for Line 5 as well, which is owned by Enbridge, a Canadian oil company.

We only really do have the eyes of Enbridge,” says Mary Ellen Geist, Great Lakes Bureau Chief with Detroit Public Television. Geist is also the producer of a new DPTV documentary titled “Beneath the Surface: the Line 5 Pipeline in the Great Lakes.”

Beth Wallace with the National Wildlife Federation says it’s only in recent years, as state officials have begun to inquire about Line 5’s status, that it has become clear the pipeline is not in pristine condition.

This 65-year-old pipeline has run its life,” says Wallace.

State officials told the Detroit News recently that Enbridge has been on top of recent concerns with the pipeline’s viability:

Enbridge is very pro-active, and they’ll take any steps necessary to make sure they maintain their pipeline,” said Scott Schaefer, an on-scene coordinator for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. “The state works with them and we will receive the information that they collect.”

Beneath the Surface” debuts April 25, at 10 pm, with a panel discussion post-show on the future of Line 5.

To hear more about the documentary on Detroit Today, and concerns surrounding Line 5, click on the audio player above.

Image credit: National Wildlife Federation

This post is a part of Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

The DJC is a partnership of six media outlets focused on telling critical stories of Detroit and creating engagement opportunities on-air, online and in the community. View the partners work at

Support for this project comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Renaissance Journalism’s Michigan Reporting Initiative and the Ford Foundation.



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