Activist pulls back curtain to show Kinder Morgan pipeline flaws and Kinder Morgan questions his credentials
Ellis has photographed places where the pipeline was exposed and corroded and signs indicating where pipeline anomalies may be. A bookseller specializing in Western First Nations literature and a former fisheries planner, Ellis raised an alarm when he saw trucks moving soil to Tervita Corporation in Richmond, which specializes in disposal of industrial waste.
Questioning credentials and demanding answers
But the bookseller, who has a Masters in Science from UBC and extensively documents the pipeline around the Coquihalla and Kamloops, has raised questions that are getting harder to dismiss.
As safe as it was 60 years ago?
Ellis, a plain-spoken man who readily admits he's no expert, came to prominence after he accurately predicted a Kinder Morgan pipeline spill along the Trans Mountain pipeline near Merritt and Hope one year before it happened. On a pipeline more than 1,000 kilometres long, he had said when and where the it would leak. "It was where high corrosion meets high pressure due to a sudden altitude drop," he said.
The Globe and Mail wrote in September that Ellis' "plodding, unrelenting opposition" to the pipeline has started to get noticed, and he's been an on-the-ground source for photos and documentation of Trans Mountain pipeline's aging condition.
While Kinder Morgan CEO Ian Anderson said at a Vancouver Board of Trade event on Tuesday that the pipeline is "just as safe and secure as it was 60 years ago, even more so", Ellis isn't sure it was very secure to begin with.
What he's found in a rare 1954 book, The Building of Trans Mountain: Canada’s first oil pipeline across the Rockies, suggests that the pipeline was made in 1952 with construction methods and materials that would not be acceptable today. There are passages documenting thinner walls along the pipeline to save costs near Hope, where the leak occurred in June. Pipeline walls, it says, were made thinner in the last 12 miles around Hope.
Excerpt from The Building of Trans Mountain, which mentions funds saved by avoiding the need for a heavier wall pipe near Hope.
What's more, he says, the old pipeline doesn't appear to have been very well maintained over the years.
"There's poor maintenance. There are even some areas where tree roots are digging into the Trans Mountain pipe, already weak after 61 years," Ellis said. Tree roots can damage the protective coating around a pipeline and come in direct contact with the steel pipe, causing faster corrosion.
Photos of tree roots along pipeline near Coquihalla by David Ellis