How We Respond
For Enbridge, our primary duty is to protect the safety of people and the environment while safely delivering the energy we all count on. That means anticipating and addressing potential problems to prevent incidents long before they occur. This approach guides every one of our decisions, actions and interactions as we plan and build new projects, and as we operate and maintain our systems, every day.
Houston control room a testament to agility and ingenuity
In early 2020, as the COVID pandemic became stark reality, a pivotal question arose: How do we keep our natural gas systems operating while ensuring the health and safety of the control room personnel tasked with overseeing the critical energy transportation network that millions of people rely on every day?
This challenge loomed large in Houston in February and March of 2020 as Enbridge conducted work-from-home tests in preparation for a full-scale pandemic response. A key challenge: the operator desk spacing was too close to maintain adequate social distancing in our primary control room located in the Houston office.
“The most effective way for operators to run this vast pipeline network is to come into the control rooms and sit at close quarters. The whole GTM and US transmission business is dependent on them,” says Thomas Atkinson, Enbridge’s Director of US Gas Control.
A solution was required, and fast, which required agile collaboration between various functions within Technology and Information Services (TIS), the US Gas Control team and Workplace Services.
“The higher goal we all shared was to keep the gas flowing. In order to do so, we had to protect our control room personnel and that was everyone’s mission,” recalls Don Sutton, Director of Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) within our TIS group, whose team played a central role in the setup of an additional control room within the building.
The pandemic presented unique challenges around cleaning and environment controls that could be best dealt with by remaining in the main Houston office rather than using our offsite Houston or Austin backup center.
Fortunately, Enbridge had a vacant control room available following the sale of our Midcoast pipeline system in 2018. That extra capacity provided a potential solution in those early anxious days as office closures loomed.
With the clock ticking, members of the TIS SCADA team installed and tested the necessary equipment while Building Operations and TIS Telecommunications ensured the newly minted facility would function as required.
At the same time, TIS also played a pivotal part in ensuring network capability for the new control room; all while supporting the already enormous effort to enable more than 12,000 Enbridge employees across North America to work remotely from home.
With speed and efficiency, the teams had the second control room fully operational in five days. With two control rooms up and running, the Gas Control team could spread out and maintain social distancing—protecting the health and safety of our people as well as the uninterrupted operation of our systems.
“The amount of diligence usually required for this endeavor could take several months of planning and lead time,” says Sutton. “But everyone from all teams rolled up their sleeves and figured out ways to make it happen.”
At the beginning of the COVID pandemic, the creation of another control room allowed Enbridge's Gas Control team in Houston to spread out—protecting the health and safety of our people as well as the uninterrupted operation of our systems.
“Our emergency response and preparedness aren’t just for pipeline incidents,” says Enbridge construction manager Al Sawatzky. “They’re for any safety issue that might arise.”
Lending a hand when it matters most
Enbridge strives to be a good neighbor, driven by our values of safety, integrity, respect and inclusion, and that means helping out when trouble arises.
In what has become an Enbridge calling card on the Canadian segment of Line 3, two members of our team leapt into action to aid a trapped motorist at an accident scene in mid-2020.
In late July 2020, Banister Pipelines mechanic Jason Radke and his helper Justin Dupuis happened upon the scene of a motor vehicle accident while working on a section of Line 3 near Fairlight, SK.
A car driven by a 17-year-old girl had slid off the roadway due to slippery conditions from heavy rainfall, with the vehicle toppling onto its side against a culvert in the ditch.
The car blocked the culvert, causing the vehicle to fill with water with the driver trapped inside.
Radke waded through waist-deep water to the vehicle and helped the frightened teen escape through the car window.
In the meantime, Dupuis called 911 and the two stayed with the girl in their truck until paramedics arrived on scene. Thankfully, though shaken up, the girl suffered no serious injuries.
“The actions of our two team members really speak to our core values of safety and doing good deeds in our operating communities,” says Dale Samis, Safety Lead with Enbridge’s Major Projects group.
"By acting quickly and decisively, they provided necessary help and prevented a situation that could’ve turned hazardous.”
This latest good deed further builds upon Enbridge’s track record during the Line 3 replacement project, during which our highly trained safety response aided our neighbors near the right-of-way on several occasions.
This included Enbridge crews providing equipment and manpower to help put out grass fires and on-scene medical assistance to an injured motorist near Craik, SK.
“Our emergency response and preparedness aren’t just for pipeline incidents,” says construction manager Al Sawatzky. “They’re for any safety issue that might arise and our people have shown outstanding corporate citizenship by helping out community members when needed.”
Enbridge receives all-clear from State of Michigan on Marshall cleanup
Bob Steede wasn’t sure the day would ever come.
Ten years ago, Steede was on the ground in Marshall dealing with the most significant environmental incident in Enbridge’s history. With more than 20,000 barrels of oil spilled and much of it in Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River, the damage was devastating, and the cleanup and reclamation took years.
In July 2020, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) approved the No Further Action Report connected to the incident in Marshall. This represented the regulatory closure of all oil contamination-related requirements.
“I’m so proud of everyone who has been involved in this work. In addition to consultants who assisted us, we had great relationships with people in the state department who were just as committed as we were to wrap this up,” says Steede, Enbridge’s Director of Environment at the time of the Marshall incident. “But most importantly, we have amazing people in the Great Lakes area and across our company who have been tirelessly focused on cleaning up this incident.”
Enormous effort involved
To get to this point, an incredible amount of work was required including:
- Collecting and analyzing 15,785 soil samples; 9,506 sediment samples; 3,011 groundwater samples; and 5,016 surface water samples.
- Submitting documents in support of the No Further Action report that totaled 9.7 million pages (submitted on hard drives and not paper copies.)
- Using forensic chemistry to detail the history of the Kalamazoo River and providing the State with a clear understanding of contamination in the area not associated with the oil spill.
“The forensic chemistry piece of this effort allowed us to isolate what was ours from what wasn’t and allowed us to compare our impacts to the State’s cleanup criteria,” explains Steede, who now has a leadership role in Enbridge’s Gas Transmission and Midstream (GTM) group.
There is still some work to do in Marshall, including some additional restoration monitoring, wetland mitigation and invasive plant treatment and monitoring which will take the next couple of years. There’s also the possibility that if unknown oil is discovered in the future, the State could ask Enbridge to deal with it.
Bryan Stiemsma, Enbridge’s Technical Manager for the Marshall environmental remediation effort, has been focused on the remediation work in Marshall since the beginning. He’s also a local—born and raised in Battle Creek and calls Marshall home.
“The Kalamazoo River is better today than it was before the incident,” says Stiemsma. “There are access points for people to fish and kayak that weren’t there before. The water is clean and healthy. We kept our commitment to people in this community and I’m proud of our work to clean it up.”
Enbridge’s Bob Steede: “We have amazing people in the Great Lakes area and across our company who have been tirelessly focused on cleaning up (the Marshall) incident.”
Your role in safe energy delivery
How you can help
Enbridge’s highest priority is—and always must be—the safety of the public, the communities where we live and work, of the approximately 13,000 members of our team across North America, and of the environment.
Every member of the Enbridge team strives to transport, generate and deliver the energy North America relies on as safely as possible. You have a role to play in the safe and reliable operation of the energy systems that power our communities and society as well.
There are two key ways you can contribute to the safety and reliability of Enbridge’s systems in your community. First, make sure to call or click before you dig.
It’s free, helps prevent accidental damage to our systems and could save your life.
In the United States call 8-1-1, and in Canada visit clickbeforeyoudig.com, two to three working days before you plan to do any excavation—from landscaping activities like planting trees, digging a new garden or building fences, to clearing brush or larger construction work—so that a locator can visit and mark underground utilities.
Second, be aware of the warning signs of a pipeline or gas distribution system leak and know what to do to stay safe in the event of an emergency.
If an incident occurs, your quick action and notification of emergency services and Enbridge can save lives and help protect your home, your community and the environment.
If you suspect a pipeline or gas distribution system leak or emergency, first make sure that you and those around you are safe and then, as soon as it is safe to do so, call 9-1-1 and then call Enbridge’s 24-hour emergency hotline for your area.