Kinder Morgan's oil spill clean up unsettles advocacy group

Photo by PIPE UP Network

Kinder Morgan's attempt to clean up a recent oil spill has left five members of PIPE UP Network, a citizen's advocacy group, worried. 

"There were still some oil-coated rocks and piles of debris, but what they were actually doing was replacing some sections of the old pipe," said Michael Hale, who toured the site of Kinder Morgan’s June 27 spill site near the Coquihalla Summit last Saturday.

Hale was surprised by how steep the pipeline's descent was from the Coquihalla Summit, and worried that the age of the pipeline -- sixty years -- and the steepness of the descent might contribute to future spills, he said. The group saw some pipeline repairs, and a length of the pipeline that had been dug up near the larger spill site. 

Section of old pipe. Photo from PIPE UP

Kinder Morgan had done "much more than one might have expected" considering that it was a relatively small spill" -- around 25 barrels, he added.

But Wendy Major, a retired Chilliwack schoolteacher, said that even a small spill was a major cause of concern for people who live near the Trans Mountain pipeline. By her estimation, there are 23 schools within a 200-metre range of the pipeline stretch from Hope to Burnaby. 

"I’m concerned whether there are procedures in place to deal with toxic vapors that off-gas from spills," Major said in a press release.

"How will the children be protected against toxic gases? There have been 80 leaks and spills over the lifetime of the pipeline. The number excavations and open repairs we saw worries me."

Access to the spill site

Kinder Morgan had initially refused the group's request to tour a larger spill site from a larger spill at an earlier gathering on August 17, saying that the area was still an "active work site", according to Hale. The gathering, which was attended by 30 First Nations leaders, environmentalists and Lower Mainland residents, was organized by former fisheries planner David Ellis.

But when a Kinder Morgan representative informed the group that they might be able to reach the spill area by hiking down the Trans Canada Trail and on August 24, Ellis and other members arranged to hike seven kilometres from the Coquihalla Summit down the trail to the spill site.

Although they were denied a tour earlier, Hale said the security at pipeline did not try to stop them from approaching the site.

"There's a security presence around the clock -- two security officers are present, one near the entrance of the trail and one near the spill site," Hale said. "But they don't really bother hikers. It was puzzling. They asked, 'What are you doing?' and we mentioned the spill site. They said, OK, fine, no problem, and they didn't need to accompany us."

A response from Kinder Morgan is pending. 

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