Pipeline Project Yields Human Skull
Work at an Indiana pipeline construction site has been halted over the discovery of a human skull this week.
Crews from Precision Pipeline, contracted by Enbridge, found the skull shortly before 10 a.m. CT Monday (Jan. 20) while they were moving a skid trailer in an area being excavated for a pipeline replacement project in Porter County, IN.
The skull was intact but missing its jawbone. Initially, the site was treated as a crime scene, and the construction crew, working alongside detectives, used excavating equipment to sift a 200-square-foot area of dirt to look for additional remains or other belongings.
On Monday night, the state's Department of Natural Resources announced that it would take over the investigation after a forensic anthropologist said the skull was believed to be of pre-1940s origin, Nwitimes.com reported.
No Other Remains
The county coroner contacted a forensic anthropologist to help with the investigation and said DNA testing would probably be conducted, according to the Post-Tribune.
The Porter County Sheriff's Department found no other remains in the area. The department said that there were no open missing-persons cases in the county that could be related to the skull and that residents had no reason to fear for their safety.
When a bone discovery is reported to the coroner's office, it usually turns out to be from an animal, county coroner Chuck Harris said.
"This is the first time I can remember in the over 10 years I've been in the coroner's office that we have a human skull," Harris told the Post-Tribune.
The DNR's Historic Preservation & Archaeology department will analyze the skull to determine if it has any historical value or if it possibly came from a burial ground.
DNR public information officer Cpl. Shawn Brown said that Precision Pipeline had been ordered to stop working in the area until the department determined if the site needed further investigation.
Eau Claire, WI-based Precision Pipeline is working on Enbridge's Line 6B Phase 2 Replacement Project, which replaces about 210 miles of existing Line 6B crude oil pipeline throughout Michigan and Indiana.
The new pipeline includes six 36-inch diameter segments and one 30-inch diameter segment. The pipeline, which is expected to be in service in mid-2014, will increase the current pipeline capacity from 240,000 barrels per day to 500,000 barrels per day.
In 2010, a corroded section of Enbridge's Line 6B ruptured in Michigan, leaking over 843,000 gallons of oil. Work is underway to replace the aging pipeline.
Most of the new segments are being installed adjacent to existing ones. Once the new pipeline segments are installed, Enbridge plans to deactivate the old ones by purging each segment and filling them with an inert gas.
Enbridge says its pipelines are constructed using "high-quality steel" and "anti-corrosion coatings" and cathodic protection is also installed to inhibit corrosion.
In July 2010, a section of Line 6B ruptured downstream of the Marshall, MI, pump station, releasing an estimated 843,844 gallons of crude oil. The rupture was not discovered for over 17 hours, and the oil saturated surrounding wetlands and flowed into the Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. Continuing cleanup efforts have exceeded $767 million.
The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the rupture was corrosion fatigue cracks and corrosion defects under disbonded polyethylene tape coating.
NTSB's investigation said the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration's "weak regulation for assessing and repairing crack indications, as well as PHMSA's ineffective oversight of pipeline integrity managment programs, control center procedures, and public awareness" contributed to the accident.