Submitted. On August 24, five members of the PIPE UP Network hiked to the site of Kinder Morgan’s June 27 oil spill near the Coquihalla Summit. Three of those present were part of a gathering at the Summit on August 17. David Ellis, of Vancouver organized that gathering of First Nations leaders, environmentalists and community representatives from along the Trans Mountain Pipeline, including members of the PIPE UP Network.
The August 17 gathering was able to tour the site of an oil spill that had happened in early June. However Kinder Morgan refused their request to tour a larger spill site from a larger spill on June 27.
Curious about the progress of the oil spill clean-up almost two months after the spill, the five PIPE UP members gathered on the Trans Canada Trail, just below the Coquihalla Summit at 1:00 p.m. on August 24. They hiked seven kilometres down the trail to the spill site. What they saw surprised them. “David Ellis told us about the steep terrain the pipeline traverses and had mentioned the ‘Coquihalla jump off’, said PIPE UP spokesperson, Michael Hale.
“I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. The top of the Coquihalla Summit is the highest point of any pipeline in Canada. From the that point near the Summit, the pipeline descends over three hundred metres vertically in a very short distance. The age of the pipe and the steepness of the descent would surely increase the likelihood of a major spill,” said Hale.
“Judging by the amount of work Kinder Morgan is doing in the area, they are obviously worried about leaks,” said Chilliwack resident Ian Stephen. “In addition to the two reported spill sites, we saw a half dozen other repairs.
At the larger of the two spill sites, there is a length of over thirty metres of pipe that has been dug up. In the area of the ‘Jump Off’ they are doing extensive slope stabilization and scaling.”
“I’m not impressed with their oil spill response capability,” said Chilliwack resident Paul Aquino. “It seems that they rely on members of the public and their own staff to report spills.” But in an 1100 kilometre pipeline through the remote country of the Fraser River watershed, who knows how many leaks there are. They are completely reactive and their spill response seems to rely on large napkins to mop it up.”
PIPE UP member Wendy Major wonders how many school districts along the sixty-year-old pipeline have had a close look at their emergency manuals. “I’m concerned whether there are procedures in place to deal with toxic vapors that off-gas from spills. How will the children be protected against toxic gases? There have been eighty leaks and spills over the lifetime of the pipeline. The number excavations and open repairs we saw worries me. Every leak has lasting effects to the land and water that affect our quality of life,” said Major.