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Issues Of The Environment: Ann Arbor Filmmaker Takes On Enbridge 'Line 5'

Apr 11, 2018

Barton Bund of Ann Arbor, Independent filmmaker and producer of 'Line 5, Part One: The Threat."

It may not be a typical path, but there are many roads to travel in a professional life.  An Ann Arbor man's journey has led to acting roles in blockbusters like "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" and directing classic plays like "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "How the Other Half Lives" to creating "an activist documentary" about threats to Great Lakes waters.  The journey, and the result, with independent filmmaker Barton Bund is the focus of this week's 'Issues of the Environment.' 


Barton Bund is best known in Washtenaw County and Southeast Michigan for his stage and film acting and as co-founder and artistic director of the now-defunct Blackbird Theater in Ann Arbor.  To this point, there was no public evidence of Bund as an environmental activist.  In fact, it seems to have come as a bit of a surprise to himself.

What started out as a rather casual dinner conversation quickly turned to a sense of great curiosity and concern.  Within a week, the decision was made. And, that marks the birth of Bund's independently filmed and produced documentary, "Line 5, Part One: The Threat."  Part one is a 30-minute preview of what will be a fully-realized feature documentary to be released later this year.  Bund says, with important mid-term elections ahead, release of the film in its entirety will come at a time when it is most likely to spawn important dialogue on protecting the Great Lakes, the Straits of Mackinac, and Michigan's drinking water supply. 

Line 5 is part of a web of oil and gas pipelines that run, in part, through the waters connecting Lakes Michigan and Huron.  Those pipelines are more than 60 years old now, and there are more than a few concerns about their durability and the safety requirements that are designed to protect the Straits of Mackinac and adjoining waters. 

Bund says, having little background knowledge of the issues surround the Enbridge Energy pipelines, he approached it with an open mind.  In following the roads less traveled, he says the information he uncovered and the lack of policy protections he discovered, frightened him. 

In his own words: 

“What began as a conventional, informative documentary quickly became a far more passionate project. After speaking with Pipeline Specialist Beth Wallace, author of Sunken Hazard, the 2014 report that exposed the dangers of Line Five, I soon realized that this crisis has potential to affect my entire home state of Michigan, and beyond.  “20% of the world’s drinking water is right here in the Great Lakes." 

"This pipeline carries not just crude oil, but natural gas and many other hazardous petrochemicals.  Line 5’s original coal-tar protective coating is falling away, revealing bare metal, leaving it exposed to corrosion.  Working with Engineer Ed Timm, we also found places where the pipeline is bent, and sagging under its own tremendous weight.  The bottom of the Straits are not a stable surface, and the pipeline is unsupported in very long spans. " 

“The film is meant to be informative, but also a call to action.  We hope the film will be useful in spreading awareness of the grave dangers posed by Line Five.  My team and I began shooting in the Fall of 2017, and have now gathered enough information to make a strong case that the line is failing.  The risks outweigh the benefits.  This film is part of a statewide effort among citizens to protect those waters from this catastrophic potential spill.” -Barton Bund

Line 5, Part One: The Threat

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu