“Once contaminated, it is unlikely that the aquifer could be remediated adequately to use for drinking water purposes again.”
We didn’t get an opportunity to keep chlorine out of Chilliwack drinking water. Let’s not miss the chance to keep Tar Sands oil out! Tell the Fraser Valley Regional District to have the National Energy Board make approval of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project conditional on a route change away from Chilliwack’s drinking water wells!
The City of Chilliwack chose the role of commenter in the National Energy Board hearing on the Trans Mountain pipeline project. In that role the City gets to file one letter of comment in the hearing. It was suggested that Chilliwack concerns could also be addressed through the Fraser Valley Regional District’s engagement in the process as an intervenor. Intervenors get to file two information requests to Kinder Morgan as well as written evidence, an oral summary, and a written argument-in-chief.
At the time of that decision Chilliwack’s Mayor said “What we are asking for first and foremost is protection of the Sardis Aquifer, since that’s our drinking water”. Unfortunately both the City’s letter of comment and the FVRD information requests fall short of protecting the drinking water on which 76,000 Chilliwack residents and businesses, as well as Yarrow Waterworks, depend.
Although the City’s letter of comment points out that “Once contaminated, it is unlikely that the aquifer could be remediated adequately to use for drinking water purposes again”, the City only went so far as to ask for such things as “risk based scoring commensurate with a river crossing” and “heavy wall pipe” to protect what even Trans Mountain themselves identified as “highly vulnerable aquifer”. The FVRD information requests (1 & 2) made no specific mention of Chilliwack’s drinking water.
On-going Threat to Chilliwack Drinking Water Source
Trans Mountain refers to the project as a “twinning” The proposal is to massively increase export capacity by adding a second, larger pipe along a route where Trans Mountain currently operate a pipeline that is over 60 years old. The plan does not include replacement of the old pipe. That old pipe has had plenty of problems, with 78 leaks in its lifetime including two in 2013 near the Coquihalla Summit. The NEB ordered Trans Mountain to conduct extensive inline testing on the old pipe. Through an Access to Information request it was learned that in the Darfield to Hargrieves section of the pipeline 119 “features” were found that were bad enough to warrant digging up the pipe for investigation and repairs.
We also know from first-hand observation that multiple excavations and repairs were done in the section down the Coquihalla Canyon and along Highway 1 from Hope almost to Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park. There the excavations stopped. No repairs of the old pipeline have been undertaken where it lies across the source of Chilliwack’s drinking water, even within capture zones of City wells. Chilliwack residents might well wonder why.
Adding to the risks posed by an over 60-year old heavy-oil pipeline sitting atop Chilliwack's drinking water aquifer, is the proximity of that pipeline to the Vedder Mountain fault, which intersects the pipeline route along the base of Vedder Mountain. WaterWealth raised the issue of that fault in our information requests, citing research from the State of Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council that said that the Vedder Mt. fault (as well as the Sumas fault) is "larger and more active than previously known" and that a "number of earthquakes have occurred along the traces of the Sumas and Vedder Mt. faults since 1964, indicating that the faults are presently active." Kinder Morgan responded that they disagree, but as recently as July 5, 2015 a magnitude 3.3 earthquake occurred near the US border along the path of the Vedder Mt. fault. The presence of this fault under the pipeline near where it crosses the Vedder River adds to risk both from direct earthquake damage and from liquefaction of soil, particularly at the banks of the river.
Let's Simply Eliminate that Risk
The WaterWealth Project is an intervenor in the NEB hearing. We intend to include in our closing arguments that rather than adding a second heavy-oil pipeline over top of Chilliwack’s drinking water the project, if it proceeds, should be taken as an opportunity to remove this threat from the City’s drinking water entirely, old pipe and new. Should the project proceed, since Trans Mountain has to excavate for the new pipeline, let them excavate further north--down the aquifer's hydraulic gradient from the old route and away from Chllliwack’s water supply. Possible options might be to follow the Spectra natural gas pipeline route or Highway 1. Do the excavation along a route away from Chiliwack’s drinking water source and decommission the old pipe through that section where it has been threatening the water source for over 60 years.
How You Can Help
We are asking residents to support our call to remove this threat from Chilliwack's drinking water by calling for the FVRD to include in both its written argument-in-chief and its oral summary argument the request to change the pipeline route away from Chilliwack drinking water wells. Chiliwack is represented on the FVRD board by Mayor Gaetz (Chair of the FVRD board), and by Chilliwack Councillors Lum, Popove, and Waddington. You can contact them by email at the addresses below.
Sharon Gaetz, Mayor, (Chair of the Board) firstname.lastname@example.org
Jason Lum, email@example.com
Ken Popove, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sam Waddington, email@example.com
Or email Chilliwack's Mayor and all Councillors with one message from the city website.
This is the only foreseeable opportunity to remove this ever-present threat from Chilliwack's drinking water. Please write to Chilliwack's representatives on the FVRD Board and request this route change be a condition of Trans Mountain Expansion Project approval by the National Energy Board. Together we can protect Chilliwack water!