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

Frontier life at the Grassy Plains Summer Festival

Burns Lake residents got a taste of pioneer life on July 13… Continue reading

Pro cyclist’s Burns Lake trail ride goes online

Nate Hills, a professional mountain biker and online influencer posted a video… Continue reading

Northern B.C.’s Ridley coal terminal sold, Canada divests, First Nations to own portion

Ten per cent of shares transferred to the Lax Kw’alaams Band and the Metlakatla First Nation

Skeena mainstem closed to recreational sockeye

Escapements expected to be below 800,000 threshold

B.C. to begin increasing coastal log export charges

New fees based on harvest cost, cedar no longer exempt

VIDEO: B.C. MLA Michelle Stilwell takes first steps in nearly 30 years

‘It actually felt like walking. It’s been 27 years… but it felt realistic to me’

Report of dead body in B.C. park actually headless sex doll

This discovery, made at Manning Park on July 10, led police to uncovering two other sex mannequins

Grand Forks fire chief found to have bullied, harassed volunteer firefighter: report

WorkSafeBC, third-party human resources investigation looking into allegations complete

Dog recovering after being drenched in hot coffee, B.C. man charged

Man was taken into custody, charged, and released pending a court date

Taekwondo instructor, 21, identified as B.C. bat rabies victim

Nick Major, 21, an instructor at Cascadia Martial Arts in Parksville

Science expedition to Canada’s largest underwater volcano departs Vancouver Island

Crews prepared for a two-week research mission to the Explorer Seamount

B.C. shipyard to get one-third of $1.5 billion frigate-repair contract

The federal government has promised to invest $7.5 billion to maintain the 12 frigates

Worried about bats? Here’s what to do if you come across one in B.C.

Bat expert with the BC Community Bat Program urges caution around the small creatures

B.C. on right road with tougher ride-hailing driver rules, says expert

The provincial government is holding firm that ride-hailing drivers have a Class 4 licence

Most Read