Chilliwack/Yarrow Drinking Water &
the Kinder Morgan Pipeline

Residents of Chilliwack have made a strong showing thus far. The NEB has received letters from many residents, the Mayor, the Chamber of Commerce, and MP Mark Strahl. But this is far from over. Read on for more info, and what you can do to help protect the source of Chilliwack and Yarrow's drinking water right now.

State of the Process[es]

Update: This page continues about the overall detailed route approval process and main issues related to that. There is also an NEB hearing now to deal with Kinder Morgan's application to move a section of the pipeline even closer to City wells. More on that here.

Thanks to motions filed by WaterWealth and the Township of Langley, new deadlines were set for written statements on the route of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Expansion Project. That extension allowed people all along the route more time to learn of their rights in the detailed route process and to exercise those rights by filing written statements with the NEB.

It was interesting to note the recommendation of the NEB Modernization Panel that an Office of the Public Intervenor be set up to assist people to learn about and participate in regulatory processes. The greatest quantity of statements filed for the Trans Mountain route process came from Chilliwack (almost 50%), where WaterWealth has been filling that role of public advocate, and Burnaby (almost 30%) where the local government and MP Kennedy Stewart have been doing that work.

A critical note: The City of Chilliwack voted at a June 6, 2017 Council meeting to authorize staff to contact the National Energy Board and participate in the alternative dispute resolution process with Kinder Morgan. We don't know what they will be negotiating there. In the past City staff and Kinder Morgan have talked about 3mm thicker pipe near city wells, how deep the pipe should be buried, vapour monitoring to let us know when there is a spill, and groundwater monitoring to let us know when the water is contaminated. The only certain way to protect Chilliwack and Yarrow community drinking water wells is to change the route of the pipeline. The City must not negotiate that away!

Next Steps

To our surprise the NEB issued a letter of decision and hearing order for the major route segment 6 (roughly Highway 9 to the Langley/Surrey border) on 13 March 2018 without first ruling on Kinder Morgan's realignment application in sub-segment 6.3. So we have a hearing process started with no schedule for the Chilliwack area other than that those granted hearings must apply to participate by 10 April 2018, and that the oral hearing portion of the process will probably be sometime in October. The oral hearing timing may change of course if the realignment hearing decision goes against Kinder Morgan because if that happens they won't have a complete route through segment 6. Intervenors would be unable to comment meaningfully until Kinder Morgan make known their intentions on if and how they want to proceed.

To our disappointment, the NEB excluded almost everyone who tried to have a say on the route of the pipeline, including WaterWealth. Of 228 statements of opposition in segment 6 only 28 get the opportunity for a hearing. In Chilliwack the few individuals who got hearings are in Yarrow. The only hearings that include segments 6.1 to 6.3, roughly Highway 9 to just before the Vedder River, are the City of Chilliwack and Ts'elxéyeqw Tribe.

Chilliwack Water Supply Risk

People on Chilliwack's water system may want to view the video below. In the span of a few minutes WaterWealth Program Director Ian Stephen walks into the Protected Groundwater Zone, from a city "Protect our Drinking Water" sign to the BC Hydro right-of-way that you may have heard about in the news, then to the pipeline and on to the most at-risk city wells. Learn about the spill scenario for our area that Kinder Morgan included in their NEB application, and the more likely spill scenarios the Province of BC asked them to model and why they did not do that modeling.

(Note: there's an error on spill volume in the video. See "Spill Scenarios" below for correct figures.)

Astonishingly, despite Kinder Morgan Canada President Ian Anderson's assurances to the Mayor that the company takes our concerns seriously, these city wells were not included in Kinder Morgan's filing with the NEB on June 16 2017 of an inventory of drinking water sources at risk from the project.

Yarrow Water Supply Risk

Kinder Morgan's list of drinking water sources at risk from the pipeline did include Yarrow Waterworks wells. The image below illustrates why (click for larger image).


Spill Scenarios - What's the Worst that Could Happen?

Kinder Morgan estimate a worst case full bore rupture spill volume of 1.3-million litres in the Fraser Valley. That was the sort of leak they included in spill scenarios in their application to the NEB. Full bore ruptures are rare though. Much more likely are slow leaks of the sort that happened in 2013 on the Trans Mountain pipeline at the Coquihalla Summit and a little east of there. Fortunately those were small and not over anyone's drinking water source, but Kinder Morgan admit that up to 2 to 5% of pipeline flow can leak undetected from pipelines. Trans Mountain plan to increase throughput on the old pipeline from 300,000 to 350,000 barrels per day. 2 to 5% of pipeline flow would be 46,375 to 115,938 litres per hour that could leak undetected. On the proposed 540,000 barrel per day pipeline 2 to 5% would be 71,550 to 178,875 litres per hour. (Those figures changed from an earlier version of this page where all additional volume of the twinned Trans Mountain system was attributed to the new pipeline. We since learned that 50,000 barrels per day of the additional capacity is to be in the old pipe.)

Were a leak in that 2 to 5% range to happen over the aquifer we get our drinking water from the consequences would be extreme. The Trans Mountain pipeline had a spill into groundwater in 1992. Fortunately that groundwater was not anyone's drinking water source because they are still trying to clean up that spill now, 26 years later. And the diluted bitumen carried by these pipelines is complex. At 1400 psi in the proposed pipeline, the bitumen only flows because of diluents added to it. The mix includes components that in the event of a spill separate at rates dependent on conditions at the time into gases that can come off as a toxic cloud and substances of various viscosities including benzene which is toxic, cancer causing, and dissolves in water.

Were a leak to happen near City or Yarrow wells we might not know about it before benzene was coming out of peoples' taps. Hopefully people would notice their water smelled funny before consuming any of it and the water supplies could be turned off before anyone became ill. However, we don't have to accept this risk being imposed on our home and our families by Kinder Morgan.

Environmental Risks

In addition to putting drinking water sources at risk, Kinder Morgan's proposed route across Chilliwack crosses through some of the most ecologically valuable areas of the community. Two of the region's most significant salmon habitat enhancement areas are adjacent the Vedder River. Peach Creek on the north side is an old, established salmon enhancement area while Browne Creek Wetlands is new and still developing. The pipeline also crosses upstream of the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve, one of the last wetland areas in the Fraser Valley that is freely connected to a river without flood control infrastructure between. Great Blue Herons are a provincially and federally listed species. The colony at the Heron Reserve had over 125 active nests in 2016.

Risks in the river area come with both construction and operation of the pipeline. Kinder Morgan plan to drill 14 metres below the Vedder River, coming up again in Browne Creek Wetlands to continue by trenching. Horizontal directional drilling carries risk of drilling fluid frac-out, as happened twice recently on the Rover pipeline with a combined leakage of nearly 8 million litres of drilling fluids. Such a failure on the Trans Mountain expansion could endanger Peach Creek, the Vedder River, Browne Creek Wetlands, Yarrow's water supply and the Heron Reserve.

Risk is almost Entirely Avoidable

The pipeline route follows Highway 1 from Hope to Chilliwack. It crosses Highway 1 by Upper Prairie Road in Chilliwack and crosses again by Kinder Morgan's pump station on McDermott Road in Abbotsford. The City could ask Kinder Morgan and the NEB to change the route to follow the highway between those points instead of going past City wells and Yarrow’s wells. Decommission that part of the existing pipeline and run it in the new route section alongside the highway too, as Kinder Morgan are doing on a new section in Burnaby, and all risk of oil pipeline spill into City of Chilliwack and Yarrow Waterworks wells would be eliminated. The river would still need to be crossed at Vedder Canal, but there would be no risk to the salmon enhancement areas or the Heron Reserve. At the canal the waters are wide, shallow and calm. If there ever was a spill from the pipeline at the canal it would be easily accessible by road and conventional spill management techniques would be more effective than would be the case on the fast, turbulent Vedder River.

Kinder Morgan's Route Alternative Route
route_alternatives_1953.jpg route_alternatives_hwy1.jpg
(Sardis-Vedder Aquifer shaded blue)

What You Can Do!

Councilor Sam Waddington recently said "with the community backing, it gives us a louder voice, to be heard by Kinder Morgan and the NEB."

We urge residents to contact the Mayor and Council to encourage them to ask for the pipeline route to be changed to get these pipelines off of the aquifer.

You can contact the Mayor and Council with one message on the city website at

Or email Mayor and Council individually:

Mayor Sharon Gaetz:


Sue Attrill:

Chris Kloot:

Jason Lum:

Ken Popove:

Chuck Stam:

Sam Waddington:

With most email clients you should be able to copy the list below and paste it into the "To:" field of your email to send one email to all:,,,,,,



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published this page in Our Initiatives 2017-07-02 21:31:40 -0700