Pipeline vs Drinking Water - Update

What follows is an update after Kinder Morgan’s response to the most recent communications from the City of Chilliwack, WaterWealth and Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl regarding the route of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project. Before diving into those details however, it is important to note that almost nowhere in these discussions is there anything that would improve the safety of Yarrow Waterworks wells, even though Yarrow's drinking water wells were listed in Kinder Morgan’s inventory of drinking water sources at risk from the project while Chilliwack's wells were not.

yarrow_wells_pipeline_fault.jpgThe only potential pipeline route that would remove the risk from Yarrow’s wells is the route proposed by WaterWealth, to follow the Trans Canada Highway. The recent communications are about a minor route deviation from Watson Elementary School to just past Deerfield Crescent where the company has actually applied to move the new pipeline closer to City wells. Neither route choice in that area would make any difference to Yarrow’s wells. To truly protect City wells and to protect Yarrow wells we need the City to insist on the route change to alongside Highway 1, the only route that would move the pipelines off of the aquifer and away from all of our community drinking water wells. You can contact the Mayor and Councilors with one message at http://bit.ly/yarrowwater. (The problem with the city's contact form is fixed.)

With that in mind, here is the current state of the project in Chilliwack as of July 31, 2017.

On July 24 Kinder Morgan responded to comments from the City of Chilliwack and WaterWealth on the company’s Section 21 application to change a small portion of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project out of an area of BC Hydro right-of-way and into the existing Trans Mountain pipeline right-of-way. Kinder Morgan also responded in part to an earlier letter from MP Mark Strahl.

Kinder Morgan agreed to the City’s request for an extension on the deadline for the City’s comment on the Section 21 application. The NEB subsequently allowed the City until August 14. This is to give the City time to review a report by BC Hydro and information that Kinder Morgan was to provide by July 28 on the Highway 1 route option.

The City’s letter to the NEB indicated that either the BC Hydro or the highway route would be superior to the old pipeline right-of-way, saying,

“We base this opinion on the responsibility to safeguard the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer as our City drinking water supply. To that end, our goal is to have the new pipeline route as far from the Aquifer as possible and both the BC Hydro and TCH routes satisfy that goal.”

It must be noted that the BC Hydro route would not satisfy a goal of having the new pipeline route “as far from the aquifer as possible” since the BC Hydro route would still be over the aquifer and within the Protected Groundwater Zone. See maps below. Blue shaded area is the aquifer our drinking water comes from.

route_alternatives_bchydro_300w.jpg route_alternatives_1953_300w.jpg
BC Hydro Route Option Kinder Morgan Section 21 Route

The company has been claiming that the Highway 1 option is not feasible. They did not file the documents with the NEB that they said they would provide to the City. WaterWealth will try to get a copy from either the City or the company. This is vital information for Chilliwack residents because the Highway 1 route option would completely protect both City of Chilliwack drinking water wells, and Yarrow Waterworks wells. More about the three route options is in an earlier blog post, "The Route of the Problem".

Highway 1 Route Proposed by WaterWealth

WaterWealth’s letter of comment on Kinder Morgan's Section 21 application started by agreeing with the company’s statement that “consideration of impact to the Vedder River Fan aquifer [aka Sardis-Vedder Aquifer] was the predominant environmental issue” for either of the routes that are the subject of their Section 21 application. The Waterwealth letter contrasted the company’s statement of the need for their project with our community’s need to protect the source of our drinking water. The letter then addressed Kinder Morgan’s justifications for the route change. Those justifications, WaterWealth’s request or comment, and Kinder Morgan’s July 24 responses follow.

Kinder Morgan Justification: “The [BC Hydro right-of-way option] results in approximately 25 homes and six sheds less than 8 m from the new pipeline.”
WaterWealth asked how close the pipelines would be to residences and sheds if the Reroute Application is approved (the Section 21 route).
Kinder Morgan responded that the closest homes to the old pipe are 6 metres and 15 homes would be 8 metres from the new pipe if the Reroute is approved.

Kinder Morgan Justification: “Under [the BC Hydro right-of-way option], a number of residents would have the existing TMPL located immediately to the south of their property and TMEP immediately to the north of their property.” and later in the application “feedback from stakeholders including the City of Chilliwack’s stated preference for a single pipeline corridor.”
WaterWealth said that a single pipeline corridor could be maintained by decommissioning the TMPL in the area affected by the Reroute Application and placing two pipes along the south side of the BC Hydro right-of-way.
Kinder Morgan responded that to do so “would be subject to a new and separate regulatory process, and is not being contemplated at this time.” Effectively saying merely “We don’t want to.”

Kinder Morgan Justification: “The realignment that BC Hydro would accept adjacent to their corridor would also be located outside of the approved pipeline corridor for 605 m.”
WaterWealth pointed out that the reroute Kinder Morgan is applying for is also outside the approved pipeline corridor.
Kinder Morgan responded agreeing that the reroute is outside the approved corridor, but pointing out that what is now the reroute had been included in the original project application and was removed because they “incorrectly assumed that the BC Hydro route conflict would be resolved through technical means”. However the implication that the BC Hydro route cannot be resolved by technical means seems to be contradicted by their reference to “[t]he realignment that BC Hydro would accept adjacent to their corridor....” (emphasis ours) Clearly there is an alignment making use of the BC Hydro right-of-way that BC Hydro would accept, so the "conflict" is resolved. What remains is just a matter of Kinder Morgan's choice and what our community and the NEB will allow.

Beyond Kinder Morgan’s justifications for the route change, WaterWealth also brought up a number of other issues related to the route change application and the area of pipeline involved.

  • That in the reroute Kinder Morgan can not meet the City of Chilliwack’s stated “non-negotiable” requirement that the pipeline be limited to a maximum of 2 meters below the existing surface. (In fact Kinder Morgan initially planned to drill 20 metres deep through the aquifer.)
  • That the company had failed to address concerns about property values.
  • That Kinder Morgan’s spill modeling had never addressed the January 2015 request by the Province of BC to model leaks below the limits of detection of safety systems, which by the company’s own admission could leak as much as 78,000 to 195,000 litres per hour from the proposed 590,000 barrel per day pipeline, undetected. The Province’s request had described circumstances very similar to those of the aquifer in Chilliwack and WaterWealth asked the Board to require that modeling be done to properly consider the risk posed by the project to City of Chilliwack drinking water wells.
  • That the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer is missing from the list of areas with potential groundwater issues in Kinder Morgan’s Groundwater Protection Plan. We asked the Board to require Kinder Morgan to explain that absence.

In their response the company reiterated that they expect to trench slightly more than 2 metres down on average and as deep as 3.4 metres, confirming that they cannot meet the City requirement to go no deeper than 2 metres. They included a report on property values but did not address impact of property values either on the route or in the surrounding community that relies on those wells, in the event of a pipeline spill. They restated the same reasons they gave the Province for not doing the slow leak modeling. And they point out that Appendix B in the Groundwater Managment Plan lists aquifers, including the Vedder Fan Aquifer, but that Appendix C lists other groundwater issues “such as proximity to watercourse, shallow groundwater, water wells and springs” (emphasis ours). They went on to point out that Appendix C did identify “a potential groundwater related issue within the area where the Vedder Fan Aquifer is present; the potential for artesian conditions in the Vedder Fan Aquifer at KP 1100.4”

However KP 1100.4 is at the Vedder River so this still does not answer the question of why the aquifer is missing from that list where it passes City wells or where it is in "proximity to" (crosses) the fish-bearing waterways of Dunville Creek, Elk Creek, Semiault Creek, Peach Creek, Hopedale Slough, Browne Creek, Street Creek, Stewart Creek, and Knox Creek.

In  response to MP Strahl’s letter, regarding concerns over Nestle's wells in Hope Kinder Morgan said they "will deviate from the existing alignment on the Nestle Waters property in order to increase the set back from their water wells to approximately 100 meters". Kinder Morgan did not address the paragraph in MP Strahl’s letter that read:

“In the case of Chilliwack, hundreds of my constituents, along with the Mayor and Council, have expressed their views that the route that the Trans Mountain pipeline has used for over 50 years over the Sardis Aquifer may no longer be the best one, and that an alternate route would be preferable.”

water-1585192_sm.jpgSo, for the moment that is where things stand. An alternate route most certainly would be preferable. If there was not a pipeline put in 1953 on the route across what is now recognized as the Protected Groundwater Zone of one of the fastest growing cities in BC we wouldn't even be talking about putting one there now. We who live here can either let the company add a second, larger pipeline on the same ludicrous route and just hope for the next 100 years or so that neither pipeline leaks here. Or we can insist that the new trench be dug along Highway 1, off of the aquifer, from where the route currently crosses the highway near Upper Prairie Road to where it returns to the highway at Kinder Morgan's pump station on McDermott Road. The company can put two pipes in that section of the new trench and decommission the piece that crosses our aquifer now. Then we and future Chilliwack residents would have no risk of pipeline spill into Chilliwack and Yarrow water systems.

We can protect the legacy of clean, healthy drinking water that  we enjoy in Chilliwack, but we need your help to do it.

Please contact the Mayor and Councilors at http://bit.ly/yarrowwater to support the call for the only route option that would truly protect City wells and the only route that offers any protection for Yarrow Waterworks wells, the route alongside Highway 1.




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Showing 5 reactions

commented 2017-08-10 18:17:15 -0700 · Flag
Ian, Thank you so much. just sending my letter in support as follows. Dear Mayor and City Council,

Thank you for all your hard work to date negotiating with Trans Mountain. You are appreciated.

I am writing today to support WaterWealth’s position on the Trans Mountain Expansion preferred BC Hydro route through Chilliwack.

In order to protect Sardis aquifer’s and Vedder Waterworks community water, the best course of action is avoidance rather than safeguards that can fail or attempted remediation, given the challenges of any attempt to clean up a diluted bitumen oil spill in our drinking water sources and fish bearing rivers and streams.

Additionally, as WaterWeaalth points out, it is preferable to urge Trans Mountain to consolidate both line 1 and line 2 into a single pipeline corridor. Your consideration on the value of this approach will resolve several issues.
Remove the existing 65 year old pipeline that will eventually fail from our water source
Diminish municipal land commitment to the pipeline
Diminish future cost considerations relevant to City of Chilliwack’s ongoing growth pattern. As identified by the City of Surrey during their final written arguments at the conclusion of the National Energy Board Hearing. Some of their concerns were growth and additional costs on infrastructure such as roads, public utilities and telecommunication lines due to pipeline right of ways.

To conclude, please consider the following points
One or more pipelines jeopardizing our water supply is not acceptable and many Chilliwack residents have filed similar concerns shoring up this objection.
Trans Mountain justification for not considering the BC Hydro option is based on isolating a number of residents between Their existing TMPL and the new TMEP, however, consideration of the age of the 65 year old TMPL line 1 needs to be addressed and removed from the aquifer before it fails.
City Council will need to convince Trans Mountain to accept consolidating both pipelines into one BC Hydro or alternate acceptable right-of-way or re-route their pipeline around Chilliwack all together.

Thank you for your consideration
commented 2017-08-10 18:04:47 -0700 · Flag
Thanks Karen. Something was wrong with the captcha in the city’s contact page. It’s fixed now.
(This commented updated after the city web page was corrected)
commented 2017-08-10 17:56:30 -0700 · Flag
the Chilliwack City Council email link is not working – error message “ERROR for site owner: Invalid domain for site key” .. same message on their direct website. does anyone have an email address I can type in please?
commented 2017-08-02 15:03:52 -0700 · Flag
Kinder Morgan’s pipeline is a stupid idea to start with, because there is no world-class equipment to clean-up a dirty, tar sands spill. This stupid idea is an insult to the intelligence of the British Columbian people. The dilbit is riddled with cancer-causing, carcinogens.
commented 2017-08-02 15:00:58 -0700 · Flag