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Rover Pipeline Spills Water Containing Gasoline Into Michigan Wetlands

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Rover Pipeline Spills Water Containing Gasoline Into Michigan Wetlands
Photo credit: Michigan Residents Against the ET Rover Pipeline

Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) issued a violation notice to Energy Transfer Partners after its Rover pipeline project spilled water containing gasoline into wetlands near Pinckney.

The violation notice was issued after the department's Water Resources Division (WRD) staff received a complaint on Wednesday regarding a petroleum odor coming from water discharged from the pipeline project near the northern crossing of Dexter-Townhall Road in Washtenaw County.


Upon inspecting the site, WRD staff noted a petroleum odor and observed a sheen in the dewatering enclosure. Staff from the Remediation and Redevelopment Division inspected the site on Thursday and also noted the presence of a petroleum odor and determined a nearby former gas station was the likely source.

"Due to the observed odors and the close proximity to a former gas station, the source of the petroleum is likely to be contaminated groundwater from a release at the former gas station," the violation notice states. "The contaminated groundwater is being captured through the dewatering process, which is being employed for the pipeline installation and is being discharged to the wetland. Regardless of the potential source, the presence of odor and sheen indicates a discharge of petroleum-contaminated water from the dewatering activities being conducted on site."

Because of the petroleum contamination, the company must apply for a special permit and treat the water prior to discharging it, MDEQ said. Additionally, the water withdrawal system should be registered with the DEQ prior to operating because it has the capacity to pump more than 100,000 gallons a day.

"Finally, Rover's dewatering activities may be exacerbating the spread of contaminated groundwater," the notice states.

The company has until Oct. 18, to submit a written response confirming intents and summarizing actions to resolve the issues.

"While the department recognizes that Energy Transfer is taking immediate action to address the violations outlined in the notice, the DEQ's priority is protecting public health and protecting the environment," a MDEQ spokesperson told EcoWatch.

According to a press release from Michigan Residents Against the ET Rover Pipeline, local residents first noticed the spill at the pipeline's construction easement on Dexter Townhall Rd. where the right-of-way crosses a wetland.

The residents estimated that hundreds of gallons of water per minute had been spilling over a silt-fence reservoir meant to temporarily contain water moving from one wetland to another. The residents noticed that the water smelled strongly of gasoline.

An Energy Transfer Partners spokesperson told EcoWatch on Friday—before the violation notice was issued—that the water is coming from a dewatering well point system.

"The water is pumping through one of the silt fencing structures and due to the heavy rainfall we have had periodically the last few days, the well point system is bringing decomposing organic vegetation from underground up to the surface with the water," the spokesperson said. "The FERC monitor and the Michigan DEQ monitors have both been onsite and have stated that the work is going according to plan. We will continue to work with both agencies as a precautionary measure."

Once complete, the 713-mile Rover pipeline will carry fracked gas across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Michigan and Canada. Construction has been plagued by numerous environmental violations, including a 2 million gallon drilling fluid spill into an Ohio wetland in April.

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