Line 3 aquifer breach is leaking more groundwater

Construction platforms across a river.
In the summer of 2021, construction padding for the Line 3 pipeline approached the Mississippi River where the pipeline now crosses underneath the river southwest of Bemidji, Minn.
Evan Frost | MPR News file

An aquifer breach in north-central Minnesota caused by construction on the Line 3 oil pipeline is leaking more groundwater, the state Department of Natural Resources said this week.

The site near LaSalle Creek in Hubbard County is one of three places where crews installing the Enbridge-owned pipeline last year caused uncontrolled flows of groundwater.

DNR staff visited the site this spring and found that Enbridge’s repairs were largely successful, though they identified the need for more monitoring and assessment, according to spokesperson Gail Nosek.

But on July 11, Enbridge informed the DNR that additional groundwater had emerged from the site. About 20 gallons per minute of groundwater is flowing out of the ground — about one-fifth of the flow from the original breach, the DNR stated.

Opponents of the Line 3 pipeline are calling for an independent panel of scientists to study the environmental impacts of the pipeline construction.

Jami Gaither is a retired engineer working with Waadookawaad Amikwag, or Those Who Help Beaver, a citizen science group that has used drones and thermal imaging to monitor the breaches.

"Every single thing that we've seen happen along this corridor was predicted by citizens, by scientists by Indigenous leadership — people who understand this land, who live in this land, who depend on this land for their life,” she said.

Gaither said pressurized aquifers feed natural springs that in turn, supply wetlands and fens with groundwater.

 "When we breach that, we no longer have the pressure, because it's being bled off in other places, to allow those natural springs that people rely on to continue to be present,” she said. “They basically disappear from the landscape."

The DNR said it's ordered Enbridge to develop a plan to address the flow. 

The agency also said it's working on an enforcement resolution to address all of the aquifer breach sites and hold Enbridge accountable for their restoration.

In an email, Enbridge spokesperson Juli Kellner said the company is developing a supplemental corrective action plan in coordination with state agencies.

Kellner said the company takes protecting the environment seriously, and continues to work with regulatory agencies at the three sites on ongoing restoration and monitoring.