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Keep Our Lakes Clean

August 8, 2014 - Melissa Scholke
The trip between the peninsulas is a route I know far too well. Whether it was tagging along with my brothers during their college years, visiting friends and relatives, or heading back home from U of M, I’ve frequently made the lengthy trek from the Yoop to Troll-land and vice versa. Sometimes along the drive, I feel as if my car is dragging across an unceasing stretch of mundane highway. Yet, in those temperamental winter months, the journey instills apprehension in me as the majority of my energy is spent anxiously searching for the roadway beneath mounds of snow. The scenery I encounter as I drive, however, often makes up for the chaotic weather, the long hours, and highly probable encounters with the deer population.

My absolute favorite part of the journey across the Upper Peninsula is taking a few moments to make a pit-stop along the lakeshore. In fact, I possess a small list of scenic spots where I love to get out of the car, walk along the beach, and gaze out at Lake Michigan. I’m certainly no budding photographer, but I enjoy snapping a few photos of the lake or even the Straits when I take these short, splash breaks. No matter the season, the same lakeshore pit-stop never looks the same way twice. Lake Michigan is constantly changing.

However, one potential change concerns me and could possibly be detrimental to Michigan in the future. I was recently able to view Lake Michigan from a different vantage point as my friend and I took a trip to Chicago last week. Surrounded by the foamy, teal waters splashing against Navy Pier, my friend seemed perturbed as I relayed the details of an article I recently read. The article described a computer simulation study conducted by University of Michigan that demonstrated the extent and the possible environmental devastation that would occur if the oil pipeline running in the water beneath the bridge were to malfunction. My friend was horrified to even learn there were oil pipelines submerged within the Great Lakes!

Considering the Great Lakes possess vast quantites of the world’s fresh water supply and act as a large source of drinking water, it seems counterintuitive and extremely reckless to risk polluting these waters. The Great Lakes are one of the state’s definitive claims to fame. I understand the transportation of oil possesses major economic benefits, but if the pipeline ruptured, many more major sectors of the economy would face debilitation. No tourist wants to swim, boat, or fish in sludgy oil polluted waters—not taking into account the numerous fish and aquatic wildlife that could be harmed if this leak did occur.

To make matters worse, Enbridge—the company responsible for maintaining the pipelines—already has a huge blotch on their safety record. One of the company’s pipelines malfunctioned and caused an oil spill in the Kalamazoo River in 2010—the effects of which are now finally being resolved. This past mistake leads many Michigan citizens, myself included, to be leery of Enbridge and its pipeline. While I don’t forsee the pipeline being removed anytime soon, stronger regulations regarding the maintenance and replacement of deteriorating sections of the pipeline should be instituted. Michiganders need to ensure Enbridge takes responsibility for its pipeline and keeps our pristine, freshwater lakes clean. The alternative is far too destructive if we don’t.


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