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Health, Science and Environment

More than 400 gallons of dielectric fluid leak in the Straits of Mackinac

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At least 400 gallons of dielectric fluid have leaked into the straits of Mackinac according to the American Transmission Company.

The company operates the leaking lines, which deliver electricity between the upper and Lower Peninsula.

Jackie Olson is a Spokesperson for American Transmission Company. She said the company discovered the leak early Monday morning.

“The cables contain a mineral based fluid for insulation and it was determined sometime in the early morning that there was indications of a leak.”

Olson said a crew went out after it was determined the cables were leaking.

“However extreme weather conditions including icing in the channel and on the shore hindered the damage investigation. As a result, those two cables that were damage cannot be repaired and have been rendered permanently inoperable and we are determining the condition of other cables in the straits.”

Olson said once the company released it would not be able to conduct a damage investigation they contacted the Coast Guard, along with several other organizations including the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Olson said at least 400 gallons of fluid made it into the straits. She said it is likely residual fluid from the lines will continue to leak. Olson said she doesn’t know how much fluid was in the lines at the time of their shutdown.

The two leaking transmission lines are permanently offline, she said, with several others under review.

“We did not experience any power outages as a result of this, however, the connection of the electric system between the Upper Peninsula and Lower Michigan is offline at the moment.”

Olson said it’s too early to determine when - or if - the transmission lines will come back online. She was also unable to say what - if any - environmental impact the leak may have on the Straits.