If you could take a few minutes and remove a major threat from Chilliwack and Yarrow’s water supplies, would you? We have such an opportunity now. At the bottom of this blog post we'll tell you how, but first some background info.
The National Energy Board (NEB) has recommended that the federal government approve Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project that will triple the volume of the Trans Mountain system by adding a second, larger pipe to the system. While generally the new pipe would lie next to the old one, in its report the NEB stated “The Board is of the view that the opportunity exists for detailed route alignments that may further minimize impacts to those directly affected.”
One of those detailed route alignments must be to remove this pipeline from the water source we in Chilliwack and Yarrow use every day! The existing pipe lies over, and at its average depth of five feet even in, the Sardis/Vedder Aquifer (also known as the Vedder River Fan Aquifer) that residents of Chilliwack and Yarrow rely on for our tap water. Even Kinder Morgan described the aquifer in the NEB hearings as "high demand, productivity and vulnerability" (p 4-15). Kinder Morgan also admitted that "City of Chilliwack community wells are located within this aquifer and the mapped well capture zones cross the proposed pipeline corridor" (p 4-35).
Regarding the risk of pipeline spill the City of Chilliwack stated in their letter of comment to the NEB “Once contaminated, it is unlikely that the aquifer could be remediated adequately to use for drinking water purposes again.”
The existing Kinder Morgan pipeline is 63 years old and has not been without problems. Kinder Morgan’s table of spills, last updated December 31, 2014, lists 82 incidents. Two of those happened near the Coquihalla Summit in June 2013. Those 2013 spills were not detected by automatic leak detection or by inline testing but by someone walking on the route and finding oil at the surface. Following those spills Kinder Morgan reviewed its inline test data and identified many “features” that met their dig criteria for inspection and repair. From an Access to Information request we know that there were 119 such “features” in the Darfield to Hargreaves section of the pipeline alone. Many excavations and repairs have also been observed along the Coquihalla Canyon and west almost to Bridal Falls, as well as a few in Abbotsford. So far, apparently, we have been lucky where the old pipe sits atop our drinking water.
That the pipeline added by the expansion project would be new is no guarantee of safety either. One recent example: A double-walled Nexen pipeline less than a year old sprung a leak in June 2015 and spilled 5 million litres over almost a month near Fort McMurray. Again automatic leak detection systems failed and the leak was finally found by someone on the ground.
If the expansion project is approved and they are going to dig a trench to put the new pipe in anyway, why not dig it AWAY from Chilliwack’s water supply?
The old pipe lies alongside and under Highway One between Hope and Chilliwack. It crosses Highway One again west of Chilliwack. If Kinder Morgan were to dig the new trench alongside the highway between those points, the old pipe could be decommissioned where it lies atop Chilliwack’s water supply and both old and new pipes run along the freeway instead. Such a route change would remove the threat of oil spill from Chilliwack and Yarrow community water supplies, and also from Vedder Middle School, Watson Elementary School, Peach Creek Salmon Enhancement area, Rotary Trail, the Vedder River, and Browne Creek Wetlands Salmon Enhancement area. It would also move the pipeline away from the Vedder Mountain Fault, reducing earthquake risk right where it currently crosses those areas of high ecological, economic and lifestyle value to these communities.
Flood control valves on culverts under the highway could allow the highway itself to provide containment in the event of a spill. The pipeline would still cross the Vedder, but at the calm water of the Vedder Canal rather than the fast water of the Vedder River, and not near the Vedder Mountain Fault. Equipment could be put in place to respond quickly in the event of a spill at the canal, and traditional spill response mechanisms would be more effective in the calm water of the canal than in the fast, turbulent water of the river at the current pipeline crossing location.
To be clear, the WaterWealth Project does not believe that the expansion project should proceed. In a nutshell, this is simply not the time to be expanding fossil fuel infrastructure and dependence. However if the project does proceed let’s not miss the opportunity to correct an error made in the 1950’s and remove the pipeline from over the aquifer.
Here's how you can help!
The federal government will decide by December this year whether to allow the expansion project to proceed. As part of that decision making process the Ministerial Panel for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project is hearing from people along the pipeline route.
Please take a few minutes to remove this threat from Chilliwack and Yarrow’s water supply. WaterWealth is asking all Chilliwack and Yarrow residents to tell the Ministerial Panel loud and clear that this new pipeline must not be built on top of the Sardis/Vedder Aquifer, and that if the project proceeds (or for that matter, even if it doesn't proceed) the threat of the 63-year old existing Trans Mountain pipeline must be removed from the aquifer as well. With this move we can ensure once and for all that the water we in Chilliwack and Yarrow use every day is protected from the threat of pipeline spills.
The Panel will be in Chilliwack Thursday July 21. Information including dates the panel will also be in Abbotsford and Langley are at https://mpmo.gc.ca/measures/272. Formal registration is not required and the public are welcome at all events. You can also send your views to the Panel via the online questionaire at https://mpmo.gc.ca/measures/270.
Please don't miss this opportunity to protect Chilliwack and Yarrow's drinking water!