Understanding the Line 3 Aquifer Breach and Spills

Enbridge permit violations profoundly degrade Minnesota’s waters and wetlands.
State regulators acknowledge scope of damage across the pipeline is unknown, yet project is allowed to move forward.

The Minnesota Environmental Partnership sponsored a free webinar titled
“Understanding and Responding to the Line 3 Aquifer Breach and Spills” on September 23rd, 2021

Throughout the construction of Line 3, Enbridge has acted irresponsibly and illegally, created disasters, and covered them up. Enbridge’s goal has been to build this pipeline as fast as possible and at any cost. Permit violations are in the dozens and shoddy construction practices have  left a wake of destruction through Minnesota’s most pristine waters, wetlands and wild rice beds.

The fact that an aquifer could be breached in January and state regulators would fail to discover this until mid-July and act on it until mid-September shows there has been a complete breakdown of our state’s environmental protections and regulatory system.

Watch the full webinar on this issue here.

Quick Facts about the Aquifer Breach in Clearbrook

Learn more from our fact sheet: Line 3 Aquifer Breach

  1. On January 21, 2021, Enbridge breached an artesian aquifer near Clearbrook, Minnesota. The breach immediately created quick-sand like conditions at the surface of the construction area and uncontrolled water flow out of the aquifer.
  2. To avoid a Stop Work Order and construction delays, Enbridge didn’t tell state regulators or environmental monitors about the breach. It opted to continue construction for the oil pipeline and worry about fixing the aquifer later.
  3. While continuing to build the pipeline amidst uncontrolled water flow, Enbridge inserted sheet pilings that created a second breach of the aquifer.
  4. Uncontrolled flow from the aquifer continues today. Over 25 million gallons have been lost so far.
  5. Enbridge breached the aquifer because it disregarded its permitted construction plans when it encountered an obstacle (another oil pipeline it didn’t  know about), digging at a depth of 18 feet instead of the approved 8 feet. This is a violation of the permit and state law. This catastrophe was completely preventable.

Quick Facts about 28 Drilling Mud Spills in Minnesota’s Waters

Photos from Ron Turney of the Indigenous Environmental Network.

Learn more from our Fact Sheet: 28 Spills in 21 Waters

On August 9, in response to a request from state legislators, the MPCA released data for the first time from Enbridge regarding the drilling mud releases, or frack-outs, resulting from the horizontal directional drilling methods used to drill under 15 different Minnesota rivers. The data showed:

  • 28 unique spill incidents – each a violation of the permit.
  • 12 of 21, or 63%, of the horizontal directional drilling crossings were polluted with drilling fluid.
  • 80%, or 12 of 15 of the rivers being crossed with this method were impacted.

The frack-outs as reported by Enbridge occurred between June 8 and August 5 and all of them are “under investigation,” but because construction was not paused by the MPCA, the results of these investigations will be delivered well past the time that information gleaned from them could help prevent further disaster.  Spill after spill, reckless and polluting construction continued despite the mounting evidence that the water protection methods in use were flawed.

More frack-outs are being identified everyday by citizens in the area as drilling mud rises to the surface near the river beds.

Learn more from our fact sheet: State Authority to Act