Enbridge pipeline’s proximity to Burns Lake raises concerns

Could a breach of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline force the evacuation of Burns Lake.

Owen McHugh presents aspects of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines plan for a potential pipeline leak in the Burns Lake area on Oct. 9

Could a breach of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline force the evacuation of Burns Lake as bitumen and condensate spew from a ruptured 2500 psi pipe running through the hills surrounding Burns Lake and underneath the Endako River just west of town?

“Let me state emphatically that the chance of this scenario ever occurring is zero,” said Michelle Perret, senior manager of community and municipal relations for Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines.

Perret was in town at the request of Burns Lake village council. Mayor Strimbold’s office had received a letter from Doug Phair, a local resident, outlining his concerns for the outcome of a break in the proposed pipeline under review that would pass quite close to Burns Lake.  Phair highlighted a potential evacuation zone around the run of the proposed pipeline which he considers to represent an unacceptable risk.

“Council received the letter from Mr. Phair and… we sent a letter to Enbridge requesting more information about emergency response programs,” said Strimbold.

Perret, along with Owen McHugh, Stantec Associate Project Manager of Environmental Management for Enbridge, made a presentation to village council on Sept. 9, 2012 prior to the regularly scheduled village council meeting. Several members of the public were also in attendance, despite the relatively short notice given that Enbridge would be making a presentation to village council.

McHugh quickly acknowledged that the specifics Enbridge’s emergency response to a pipeline breach in Burns Lake are not ready at hand.  “There haven’t been any field studies in Burns Lake,” said McHugh. “But they will be done.”

According to McHugh, the pipeline project is at too preliminary a stage to expect a specific response plan to be in place for every section of the pipeline. He presented his analysis of what a Burns Lake emergency plan would look like based upon the existing detailed plans for a pipe failure in Kitimat.

McHugh described a system where ground elevation and drainage topography allow for a model of projected spill pathways and containment points.  The idea is that a rupture of the pipeline at a specific point along its length will naturally be directed to choke points. These choke points might be ecologically sensitive stream heads or lakes, but they do represent containable constriction points rather than a wide indiscriminate swathe of flooding that would overwhelm Burns Lake.

As for the specifics of how these points would be identified and how cleanups would proceed, McHugh offered that the details would need to be worked out once pipeline construction moved from proposal to approval. He described a situation where emergency response plans grow dynamically with input from, and in response to, the local community. McHugh emphasized that Enbridge’s generic response plans would need to be tailored to individual ecological and social situations along the entirety of the pipeline and that it wasn’t a question of having a one answer solution to all possible situations.

Councillor Quinten Beach opened questioning after the presentation. Beach asked how Enbridge proposed controlling a pipeline failure as it crossed the Endako River joining Burns Lake and Decker Lake. McHugh responded that a ‘thick-walled pipe’ would be laid underneath the river by directional drilling. There would also be valves on either side of the river to control flow.

Beach was concerned as to who would carry the liability for environmental clean up should there be a pipeline failure. McHugh said that “Northern Gateway accepts unlimited liability for pipeline spills.”

Phair’s concern is that the pipeline, if it is to go through at all, shouldn’t be located so close to Burns Lake. Although Perret did not specifically address Phair’s letter during  her presentation to council, she did leave open the possibility that the pipeline route could change in response to environmental, community or First Nations concern.  “Currently, this [Northern Gateway] is just an application, a proposal for a project,” she said. “As we get input, we constantly revise our route.  We’re on route revision U, and we started on A.”

The Village of Burns Lake continues to officially take a neutral stance on the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. Both councillor Susan Schienbein and councillor Beach have gone on the record stating their personal opposition to the Northern Gateway proposal, while Mayor Strimbold has recently reiterated his wait and see position.

 

Just Posted

B.C. boosts 2018 wildfire recovery aid by $10 million

The British Columbia government has allocated an additional $10 million in support… Continue reading

Burns Lake marks 100 years since Armistice

Burns Lake residents on Nov. 11 held a Remembrance Day ceremony at… Continue reading

B.C. Legions in need of young members to continue aiding veterans into the future

Lest we forget what thousands of men and women did to fight for Canada’s freedoms – but without new membership, many Legion chapters face dwindling numbers

North Coast figure skater to star in Dancing On Ice

Carlotta Edwards learned to skate in Prince Rupert, before becoming a star with millions of viewers

Convicted man still not sentenced

A Southside offender, who has been convicted of touching for a sexual… Continue reading

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Protesters confront Environment Minister in B.C.

Protesters wanting more for killer whales confront Catherine McKenna

Humans reshaping evolutionary history of species around the globe: paper

University of British Columbia researcher had the paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society

Toronto ‘carding’ activist Desmond Cole stopped by police in Vancouver

Cole says his experience reveals what daily life is like for black and Indigenous residents

Commercial trucks banned from left lane of Coquihalla

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation has introduced a new program that hopes to prevent accidents and closures on the Coquihalla Highway.

B.C. on track to record same number of overdose deaths as last year

128 people died of overdoses in September, bringing the total to more than 1,100 so far in 2018

B.C. firefighters rescue horse stuck in mud

‘It happens more often than you’d think,’ says deputy chief

UPDATE: West Fraser to permanently reduce production in Quesnel, Fraser Lake

The move, due to log supply shortages, will affect 75 employees in Quesnel, 60 in Fraser Lake

Canadians more prepared for weather disaster than financial one: poll

RBC recommends people check their bank app as often as the weather app

Most Read