Wednesday, January 13, 2015


Pipeline Peril 

Local earthquake fault line adds hazard to oil line

Ian Stephen, WWP Chilliwack


he 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 intervener 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.



The following letter was sent today (Jan 5) to the Chilliwack Mayor and Councillors regarding the risks posed to Chilliwack and Yarrow water supplies by the Trans Mountain pipeline and the opportunity for the proposed pipeline expansion project to remove that risk if that project is approved and proceeds.



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