Let's Not Double-Down on the
Greatest Single Threat to Chilliwack's Water Supply
Places we love, assets our community depends on,
match places of compounding risks to the pipeline.
Let's change the route!
Kinder Morgan want to twin their Trans Mountain pipeline. Whether you think the new pipeline should be built or not, the fact is that the existing route is not a gamble Chilliwack can afford.
Trans Mountain runs near and even across several schools in Chilliwack. It crosses two salmon enhancement areas, the Vedder Rotary Trail, and the Vedder River just upstream of the Great Blue Heron Reserve, all while running along the Vedder Mountain Fault and crossing a zone of very high liquefaction susceptibility. Worst of all, it lies on top of and even in the aquifer all of us in our homes, businesses, schools and hospital get our water from.
Let's not double down on this gamble with our water supply by adding yet another heavy oil pipeline across the aquifer. Instead let's remove the threat of oil spill from our community's water supply certainly and permanently by moving the pipelines off of the aquifer!
Read on for more info, or if you want to take action now - click here to go to the petition!
Old Pipe Reaching End of Life? Not According to Kinder Morgan.
The existing 63 year old pipeline has had 82 spills so far according to Kinder Morgan. In 2013 two spills occurred near the Coquilhalla Summit. They were not detected by pipeline safety systems or by in-line test equipment. Subsequently Kinder Morgan reviewed all of their in-line test data and have dug up the pipeline in many, perhaps hundreds of places for inspection and repair. Residents of Chilliwack who went to see the spill locations in 2013 found not two repair sites, but many. Excavations were found over the summit and all down the Coquihalla Canyon. We don't know how many repairs have been done or need to be done, but from one freedom of information request document we do know that 119 locations that met the dig criteria were identified in the Darfield to Hargrieves section of the pipeline, a length of only 279 km. Almost one for every two kilometres of pipeline!
Oddly, no repairs have been done where the pipeline crosses the aquifers and populated areas through Chilliwack. That the old pipe has not leaked into the aquifer yet is really just luck, and Kinder Morgan has no intentions to take that 63 year old pipe out of service. Compare that to the Enbridge Line 6B (pictured) that was 41 years old when it spilled three million litres of diluted bitumen into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. Enbridge completely replaced that pipeline after the spill and in a July 2016 consent decree signed by Enbridge and the US government in settlement of that spill Enbridge agreed to also replace their now 48 year old Line 3 pipeline.
Won't the New Pipeline be Safer?
Don't bet your community's well being on it!
To cite just one example, in 2015 a Nexen owned double-walled pipeline less than a year old leaked for a month in Northern Alberta. Five million litres spilled and pipeline safety systems did not detect it. Like Kinder Morgan's 2013 spills, the 2015 Nexen spill was discovered by someone on the ground who happened across the spill.
Why put even a new pipeline across the aquifer when they could just go around it?
Chilliwack Jobs at Risk
The City of Chilliwack letter of comment to the National Energy Board (NEB) said "Once contaminated, it is unlikely that the aquifer could be remediated adequately to use for drinking water purposes again." What would Chilliwack businesses do if they suddenly had no water? What would our hospital do? Farms, coffee shops, restaurants, craft breweries...large brewery!
Molson's press release when they announced that they are moving their brewery to Chilliwack said “Our brewers are delighted with the quality of water in Chilliwack, a key ingredient to producing our great beers and ciders." Would Molson still be coming to town if the aquifer suffered an oil spill? Perhaps they could sell a "Bitumen Dark" novelty item instead of beer.
Chilliwack jobs will be at risk if we do not change the route.
National Energy Board Fail
On May 19th, 2016 the NEB issued a report recommending approval of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Expansion project. That despite acknowledging the compounding risks found in the Chilliwack section of the pipeline route and continued uncertainties of project details.
WaterWealth's Campaign Director Ian Stephen participated personally in the NEB hearing as a commenter. Points raised in Stephen's letter of comment, based in part on a document from the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council that stated that the Vedder Mountain and Sumas faults are indeed active faults, received mention in a paragraph of the NEB report that read;
"In a letter of comment, Ian Stephen questioned Trans Mountain’s assertion that no historical earthquakes have occurred near Vedder Mountain Fault or Sumas Fault. He also recommended a route change due to the potential for compounding risks where the Vedder Mountain and Sumas Faults are in proximity to each other, based on the increased risk of liquefaction, flooding, and earthquake-triggered river bank activity."
Those faults were two of four that received particular mention from Natural Resources Canada in the NEB hearings, and at the time of the NEB report Kinder Morgan was still carrying out investigation of the risks, and potential for compounding risks, posed by these faults. Kinder Morgan haven't even finished their analysis and design, yet the NEB already recommended the project get the go-ahead!
The NEB's recommendations for the new pipeline did include requirements for groundwater monitoring. However we who live in Chilliwack, who drink that groundwater, who fish the Vedder River and eat locally grown produce cannot be satisfied with simply being notified when the water becomes contaminated. We must demand that the water not be contaminated in the first place!
The NEB has failed to protect our interests, but we can still fix this!
Certainly and Permanently Remove the Threat of Oil Spill from the Water Supply
If the project is approved, the only way to certainly and permanently remove the threat of oil spill from the water supply our community depends on is to change the pipeline route. The pipeline already runs alongside and even under the Trans Canada Highway from Hope to Chilliwack. It crosses the highway again west of Chilliwack before going up Sumas Mountain. If the expansion project receives federal approval Kinder Morgan/Trans Mountain have to dig a new trench to put the new pipe in anyway. If they were to dig that trench along the highway they could decommission the old pipeline where it lies over the aquifer, run two pipes in the new trench across Chilliwack and connect to the old pipeline where it already crosses the highway east and west of the aquifer.
Benefits of a route along the highway:
- The pipeline would be removed from Vedder Middle School, Watson Elementary, and John Calvin Christian Elementary School.
- The pipeline would be removed from Peach Creek and Browne Creek Wetlands salmon enhancement areas, the Vedder River, and the Great Blue Heron Reserve.
- The pipeline would be moved away from the Vedder Mountain Fault, and the zone of very high liquefaction susceptibility at its present Vedder River crossing location.
- In the event of a spill in the section along the highway, valves on culverts where streams pass under the highway could be closed to use the highway itself as containment to keep oil from reaching the Fraser River.
- In the event of a spill at the new crossing on Vedder Canal, spill containment and cleanup techniques would be much more effective than on the fast, turbulent water of the present crossing location on Vedder River.
- Most importantly for our community, the pipeline would no longer threaten the water supply. It would cross only the bottom tip of the aquifer, 'downstream' as the aquifer flows and far from city wells.
We All Need to Pull Together on This. Here's How We Begin!
While the National Energy Board failed to protect our community from the threat of oil spill into our water supply, they left the door open to route changes like the one proposed by WaterWealth. The NEB report said “The Board notes that the detailed route for the Project has not been finalized,” and that “The Board is of the view that the opportunity exists for detailed route alignments that may further minimize impacts to those directly affected.”
It is up to us to make this route change a reality! Following the NEB report, the federal government appointed a Ministerial Panel to hear from people along the pipeline route. WaterWealth presented to the Ministerial Panel at an NGO Roundtable on 26 July 2016, outlining the risks in this part of the pipeline and asking the Ministerial Panel and the federal government to correct the NEB's failure to protect our community's water supply.
That presentation is now available in video.
The Ministerial Panel will continue to gather feedback until September 30 to help inform the federal government's decision in December. If each of us in Chilliwack speak up and get these pipelines removed from over the aquifer we can rest assured that oil spill will not steal from our children and grandchildren the drinking water that we have always enjoyed -- some of the best in the world.