Move pipeline off Chilliwack’s aquifer

In early June, the City of Chilliwack received an extraordinary invitation. Kinder Morgan president, Ian Anderson, wants to meet to discuss the Trans Mountain pipeline route. The proposed Chilliwack route runs through dense residential areas, two schools, nature reserves, and last but not least, our aquifer, the main source of drinking water for our city.

Imagine what a leak of diluted bitumen – which is volatile, highly pressurized, and sinks in water – would mean for our community. Would you buy a home in a city with contaminated water? No, no one would. Our property values would plummet. What about a leak at Watson Elementary school? Leaked bitumen creates a toxic gas cloud, which sickened residents in Abbotsford in 2012. Is this an acceptable risk for our children? Leaks are certainly not unheard of – since 2000 the company has reported 14 spills. In all there have been over 80 since the pipeline went into use in 1953.

There has been much back and forth about how to safeguard the pipeline, and I imagine that Mr. Anderson could dangle these options in front of our city council. Vapour monitoring, thicker-walled pipe (by a few millimetres), trench depth limits – these precautions are not enough. They failed to protect Northern Alberta in 2015 when a one-year-old, double-walled pipeline leaked 5 million litres of oil without detection from any monitoring systems.

There has also been much back and forth about an alternate route. The BC Hydro right of way doesn’t offer much protection to the aquifer, and Mr. Anderson rejects the very sound suggestion of a route parallel to Highway 1 due to “engineering challenges.” But the challenges of that route are not insurmountable. If there’s a will, there can a way, especially when our community has so much to lose.

Mayor Gaetz, city counsellors, I am grateful for the stand you’ve taken so far. Please don’t back down now. The only way to truly protect our community is to move this pipeline off our aquifer. It’s a tough stand to take, but we need your strength. Please don’t let us down.

Chilliwack citizens, please take a moment to write to the City and let them know that we care about our water, our homes, our businesses, our nature, and our children. You can send a letter online, or for those interested, there’ll be a “Move the Pipeline Happy Hour” on Friday, June 23rd at Wilde Oscar’s Pub at 6pm where you can come to learn more, have a drink with folks in our community who care, and write a letter to the city.

Rachel Knudsen