Enbridge’s safety plan still in question

We heard very little about real evacuation plans, response times, anticipated risks, spill volumes, gas clouds, fireballs and explosions.

Editor:

From documents submitted by Enbridge to the Joint Review Panel, here are the “maximum volume releases” of diluted bitumen which could spew from the 3 sections of dilbit pipe between the currently proposed valves near Burns Lake. Volumes for the condensate pipeline are not shown in the documents. [“http://www.northerngateway.ca/jrp-maps”].

Between the proposed pumping station and “the Narrows” = 24,352 barrels = 3,871,968 litres

Crossing the Narrows = 21,775 barrels = 3,462,225 Litres

Between the Narrows and Maxan Creek = 153,129 barrels = 24,347,511 Litres

For comparison: Kalamazoo spill = 20,000 barrels = <3,200,000 Litres

It certainly was reassuring to hear Enbridge’s pledge of “unlimited liability”, and about the “early, planning stages” of their emergency response “program” which aims to “get the environment back to the way it was before” a catastrophe. It was reassuring to learn of their “evolving emergency responses”, old-fashioned booms and skimmers, and of their Shoreline Clean-up Assessment Technique (SCAT) process. Their “unified command” approach to clean-up operations – engaging and involving Enbridge, the BC government, “Aboriginals”, local governments, and the federal government, along with local first responders – might even bring us jobs.

But we heard very little about real evacuation plans, response times, anticipated risks, spill volumes, gas clouds, fireballs and explosions.

Yet, various readily available Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for dilbit show that the condensate diluents quickly separate from the bitumen, and evaporate into a toxic, potentially explosive cloud. Without necessarily any warning odour being sensed, petro-chemicals and hydrogen sulphide irritate the eyes, nose, throat and lungs; cause headaches, dizziness, fatigue, seizures and other neurotoxic effects; and may cause breathing failure, coma and death. With a  flashpoint around minus 18 degrees Celsius, its own static discharge is known to ignite one component. Testimony to the US House of Representatives’ House Committee on Energy and Commerce reports that the low flash point and high vapour pressure of the condensate increases the risk of “exploding with catastrophic results”. [online at: “http://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/sites/default/files/image_uploads/Testimony_06.15.11_EP_Swift.pdf”]

To a question from the public about decommissioning old pipelines, we were told that Enbridge would “drain every drop” from all abandoned pipelines. Yet weeks after the Kalamazoo disaster, residents up to 50 kilometres away could still smell fumes.

But that won’t happen here. “Let me state emphatically that the chance of this scenario ever occurring is zero.” Yes, and the 61 kilometre-long tar slick still on the bottom of the Kalamazoo is, we are told, all cleaned up too. Sure it is. Roulette anyone?

With concern,

John Phair

 

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