August 28, 2013 - Brandon Twp.- Enbridge Energy has won final site plan approval for an oil pipeline pump station at 3403 Seymour Lake Road, with conditions.
The planning commission approved by a 6-0 vote the final site plan during their Aug. 27 meeting. Commission member Donna Ferrara was absent.
Four conditions accompanied the approval:
nEnbridge must submit an ambient noise study once construction is complete, in order to ensure sound produced from the pump station has not appreciably increased noise levels in the area;
n A landscape plan certified by a licensed landscape architect that depicts screening of the perimeter of the 2.5 acre pump station site must be brought by Enbridge to the planning commission by Dec. 31 and a cash bond must be implemented to ensure proper landscaping will be done;Enbridge's behalf, the company had done more than what is required.
"We understand concerns," said Curwin, "but there are many factors behind real estate market values."
"How many (factors) before you spilled a million gallons of oil?" asked Patrick Baldwin, a Cook's Trail resident, referring to the 2010 Marshall, Mich. incident in which an Enbridge pipeline ruptured, spilling roughly 1 million gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River, the largest in-land environmental disaster in U.S. history.
That rupture happened within 5 miles of a pump station, where Enbridge Spokesman Jason Manshum noted that pressure is inherently higher to move the oil down the pipeline. According to an investigation of the incident, while alarms sounded at a control center in Canada, the spill was not caught for several hours and the situation was exacerbated when Enbridge employees noticed a decrease in oil pressure and unaware the line had ruptured, ratcheted up pressure.
Enbridge plans to have an employee visit the Ortonville pump station three times a week, conducting visual inspections and routine maintenance of the site.
"Him having eyes there is not the best defense," said Curwin, downplaying suggestions an employee should be on site 24/7. "The best line of defense is the control center."
An emergency number is posted on a sign at the site of the planned pump station. Residents have other Enbridge numbers they have called for assistance, but complain their issues have been unresolved or ignored.
Dinnan told the residents Tuesday to call him at the township building department with Enbridge concerns.
"If they don't respond, call me," he said. "I'm here to represent you also. It won't happen too many times."
nAll traffic, operations, construction, repairs and maintenance of the pump station will be restricted to the International Transmission Co. (ITC) easement;
nEvaluation of isometric view and elevations— architectural renderings including color of the pump station— will be submitted by Dec. 31.
"You can't finish, but you can start," said Planning Commission Chairman Ron Haase to Enbridge representatives at the meeting that included Mark Curwin and Glen Jones.
Those words secure what is likely the final victory here for Enbridge in what has been an inexorable march toward replacement of the Line 6B crude oil pipeline which stretches more than 200 miles from Griffith, Ind. to Marysville, Mich.
"Everything has been answered, just about," said Township Planning and Building Director Bill Dinnan, referring to sticking points from a preliminary site plan approval denied by the planning commission last month.
Issues readdressed at Tuesday night's meeting included fencing, landscaping, drainage, noise, and appearance of the pump station, which will be nearly 35 feet tall, exceed 5,000 square feet, and house two 6,000 horsepower pumps as well as a spare.
Enbridge has estimated that up to 300,000 barrels of crude oil could be pumped through the pipeline daily. Two pumps are needed due to demand and Enbridge acknowledged they could run 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. Current forecasts by Enbridge have the Ortonville pumps running about 60-70 percent of the time.
Noise levels have been one of the primary concerns regarding the pump station. The station is in a residential area, surrounded by homes that were previously valued at several hundred thousand dollars. Residents of Cook's Trail and Sarah's Way turned out en masse at both the July planning commission meeting, as well as the Aug. 27 meeting.
"They (Enbridge) tell us things and don't follow through," said Susan Evans, addressing the planning commission. "No one ever calls us back. We're asking for your help."
Evans and her husband, Mark, have requested 10-20 foot trees to block the view of the pumping station from their property, rather than the 6-foot trees planned. Curwin said during the meeting that the company will be unable to determine the number, size, kind and location of additional trees until fall when the landscape is bare of foliage.
In an attempt to address noise concerns shared by seemingly all the residents in attendance as well as the planning commission members, Jones said a noise study identified the decibel levels the pumps will generate.
"There should be no appreciable noise increase with the building up and the pumps running," he said, adding that there will be 10 inches of insulation on the walls and the roof is also insulated. "Corrective action will be taken if it doesn't meet ordinances. We have several pump stations under construction with the same size motors here in Michigan."
A suggestion that the Enbridge pumps be housed in a basement-type structure, which would mitigate the noise and appearance concerns from residents, was discarded by Enbridge representatives for safety reasons.
"Safety is our utmost priority," said Curwin, amidst derision from the crowd. "If there were an incident, we don't want a basement with confined space where odors would collect for a safety hazard."
For the same reason, Jones said the company wants a chainlink fence opposed to solid walls around the facility. The latter, he said, would create a confined space in which vapors would not dissipate.
"There are limitations this board has relative to (the pump station and pipeline)," Dinnan said to planning commission members. "I'm trying to help you make decisions that don't lead us to court. It's a really touchy situation so we don't cross the line of pre-emption by the state and federal government."
Planning Commission Member George Buhler responded, "I think we all know we have to live with it."
Buhler and the rest of the planning commission members present viewed a new depiction of what the pump station will look like once completed, which takes on more the appearance of a barn. The structure will be constructed of steel, however, and was considered by many residents as having the appearance of an industrial complex.
Haase asked residents what color they would prefer for the building, which drew a mixed reaction from the crowd, many who continued to voice their opposition to the structure in general. Faced with the inevitable, some finally gave responses including yellow, forest green and dark brown, and brick. Larry Newton noted the multi-billion dollar company could afford to make it out of gold, as they continue to make millions in profits.
Leroy Rodgers suggested Enbridge reimburse residents of the pump station what they will lose selling their homes at lower prices, but Dinnan noted there was no way that would happen and while he wasn't there on
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville