Remove the Risk From Chilliwack Water!

Send a message to Chilliwack's Mayor and Councillors.
Remove the Risk from Chilliwack drinking water!

If the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project goes ahead they have to dig a trench to put the new pipe in anyway. Why dig it on top of the aquifer, making the same mistake as was made in the 1950's? Change the route!

The WaterWealth Project is opposed to the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project for reasons ranging from local to global. Setting all those complexities aside for the moment though, there is one clear issue that needs to be addressed in our home community of Chilliwack in the event that the project goes ahead--the risks posed by having any tar sands pipeline sitting atop the city water supply.

Chilliwack aquifer and pipeline mapThe blue area on this map (click for larger version in a new window) is the aquifer that supplies water to the residents and businesses of the City of Chilliwack. The yellow line is the Trans Mountain pipeline. The old pipe has been there for over 60 years. Kinder Morgan/Trans Mountain want to add a second pipe, twice as large as the old one. The City state that the aquifer's "vulnerability is classified as high and extreme", yet in the one letter of comment that the City was allowed in the National Energy Board hearing on the expansion project they did not mention the only way to remove the risk--change the route!

Trans Mountain Pipeline repairs, Coquihalla CanyonSome might say the old pipe has been there that long and it's fine, what's the problem? But the fact is that it is not fine. The old pipe has had several leaks and literally hundreds of excavations for inspection and repairs over the past couple of years in less populated portions of its length. But none here. Why none?

It is also a fact that pipeline leaks are unpredictable. Like the Kalamazoo spill where human error beat modern centralized detection and control systems to create the largest inland oil spill ever, or the 'fish-mouth' leak in Nexen's brand new double-walled pipeline in Alberta where the company did not know what happened or when, to either the pipeline or the monitoring equipment that should have alerted them to the problem. Spills happen. We don't want one to happen into the aquifer we rely on. You can't fix that.

So we are calling on the FVRD to demand a route change in their January 12 written argument-in-chief in the National Energy Board hearing on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project. If the project goes ahead move both old and new pipes north, off of the aquifer and away from City wells.

Support this call with an email to Chilliwack's Mayor and Council, four of whom sit on the FVRD Board. Send a message as simple as "Please move the Trans Mountain pipeline off of the City water source." Click here to send one message to the Mayor and all Councillors. The FVRD have to submit their written argument-in-chief by January 12. Please make your voice heard today!

Below is the WaterWealth Campaign Director's letter to Mayor and Council with more details of the risks posed by these toxic bitumen pipelines!


Honourable Mayor and Councillors

The City of Chilliwack chose to be a commenter rather than an intervenor in the National Energy Board hearing on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project. My understanding was that the choice was based on the understanding that the Fraser Valley Regional District as an intervenor could represent Chilliwack's interests in the process, and duplication of costs and work would be avoided.

The City's letter of comment identifies five areas of priority concern. First among them was "Protection of the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer (also known as the Vedder River Fan Aquifer) during construction and operation of the TMEP".

The City also state in their letter that "Yarrow Waterworks District’s wells are situated immediately adjacent to the Vedder River, and are therefore influenced by the water quality in the Vedder River downstream of the Trans Mountain crossing of the Vedder River". As you may be aware, that river crossing is also near the Vedder Mountain Fault, adding seismic risk to this critical section of the pipeline route.

Further, the City state that "the pipeline route crosses land where the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer's vulnerability is classified as high and extreme".

Despite all of that, the City speak only of mitigating risk through such things as monitoring groundwater and use of heavier pipe across the aquifer, missing the simplest and surest way of protecting Chilliwack and Yarrow drinking water supplies: change the route to remove the pipeline from over the aquifer.

We know from documents acquired through an Access to Information request by Mr David Ellis, and from direct observation, that hundreds of "features" that met Kinder Morgan's dig criteria were identified on the old pipeline in the Darfield to Hargreaves section and down the Coquihalla Canyon to as far west as almost Bridal Falls. Excavations for inspection and repair on the pipeline have been ongoing since at least June 2013 when the two spills were found near the Coquihalla Summit.

Similar in-line testing was to have been completed on the section that crosses Chilliwack by the end of 2014. I regret that I have not undertaken an Access to Information request to try to acquire those test results. To date, to the best of my knowledge, there have been no excavations between approximately 5km east of Bridal Falls and Sumas Mountain--an area including the section of the pipeline that lies over Chilliwack's water supply. It is hard to imagine that the existing pipeline is any healthier in the Chilliwack section than it was in the sections where so many inspections and repairs were undertaken over the past couple of years. I can only surmise that Kinder Morgan are waiting for approval on their pipeline expansion to do those repairs on the old line across Chilliwack as installation of the new line progresses.

Leaving aside whether new tar sands pipelines should be built at all in this day and age, if the Trans Mountain Expansion Project proceeds they have to dig a new trench for the new pipe. Risk to Chilliwack's water supply could be eliminated by having Trans Mountain dig that new trench further north, off of the aquifer, away from City of Chilliwack and Yarrow Waterworks wells, and for a relatively small additional cost decommission the 60+ year old pipeline that lies across the aquifer now and run it along the new route also, rejoining the original route at points east and west of Chilliwack's water supply. Identification of the new route is of course Trans Mountain's responsibility, but considering that the pipeline crosses and in places runs under Highway One both east and west of Chilliwack, a new route following Highway One seems like an option.

There is still time to direct FVRD staff to include in the FVRD Argument-in-Chief that the NEB make one of the conditions for Trans Mountain Expansion Project approval be that this route change be made for both new and old pipelines to protect Chilliwack and Yarrow drinking water, as well as the economic, ecological, and recreational value of the Vedder River. We will never have a better opportunity to remove this threat from the water supplies and river.

I look forward to your reply, and would be happy to discuss this further and provide what documentation I have, e.g. the Kinder Morgan report documenting 119 features meeting their dig criteria in the Hargreaves to Darfield section.

Best Regards,
Ian Stephen
WaterWealth Project

Send your message to Mayor and Council!

We have only until January 12 for the FVRD argument-in-chief to be submitted to the National Energy Board. Please write today!



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