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Change the route to protect Chilliwack aquifer says WaterWealth

WaterWealth fired off a letter to Chilliwack mayor and council this week, emphasizing risks posed to Chilliwack and Yarrow water supplies by the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. - CHILLIWACK PROGRESS FILE PHOTO
WaterWealth fired off a letter to Chilliwack mayor and council this week, emphasizing risks posed to Chilliwack and Yarrow water supplies by the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
— image credit: CHILLIWACK PROGRESS FILE PHOTO

Kinder Morgan should change the route of its proposed Trans Mountain pipeline to better protect Chilliwack's drinking water sources, according to WaterWealth Project.

It should be a condition of project approval, and the new pipeline route should be directed away from the aquifer, according to WaterWealth spokesperson Ian Stephen.

Stephen fired off a letter to Chilliwack mayor and council this week, emphasizing the risks posed to Chilliwack and Yarrow water supplies by the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

"Risk to Chilliwack's water supply could be eliminated by having Trans Mountain dig that new trench further north, off of the aquifer, away from City of Chilliwack and Yarrow Waterworks wells, and for a relatively small additional cost decommission the 60+ year old pipeline that lies across the aquifer now and run it along the new route also, rejoining the original route at points east and west of Chilliwack's water supply.

"Identification of the new route is of course Trans Mountain's responsibility, but considering that the pipeline crosses and in places runs under Highway 1 both east and west of Chilliwack, a new route following Highway 1 seems like an option."

Trans Mountain officials said however that following existing right-of-way for the expansion is something they've pledged to do.

“Through our engagement with local residents and ongoing discussions with the City of Chilliwack, we understand  the protection of the aquifers in the community is of high interest to the Fraser Valley," said Trans Mountain officials in a statement.

"In response and recognition of the significance of the aquifer, and as part our risk-based design approach, Trans Mountain has committed to additional valves and increasing the wall thickness of the new pipeline in this sensitive area."

In terms of routing principles, they will follow the existing right-of-way where practical.

"Through Chilliwack, we propose to use the existing pipeline corridor," according to Trans Mountain reps. "We believe that expanding the pipeline along the existing footprint will minimize impact to the community while operating the pipeline system responsibly as we have for more than 60 years.”

City of Chilliwack chose to be a "commenter" rather than an "intervenor" in the National Energy Board hearings on the pipeline project, leaving the intervenor role to the Fraser Valley Regional District. Stephen said his understanding was that the choice was based on the understanding that the FVRD as intervenor could represent Chilliwack's interests in the process, and duplication of costs and work would be avoided.

Acting Mayor Chuck Stam said aquifer contamination topped Chilliwack's list of concerns in its letter of comment to the NEB.

"We've always emphasized the protection of the aquifer and the Vedder River right from the very beginning and have taken every opportunity to make this known," said Acting Mayor Chuck Stam.

Chilliwack council has communicated these concerns to FVRD, which will act as intervenor in the hearings.

Chilliwack's letter of comment cites five areas of concern: protection of the Sardis-Vedder aquifer during construction and operation, protection of natural areas, impacts of construction and mitigation, Trans Mountain's communication plan, and timing of construction at Vedder River.

The WaterWealth letter also addressed repairs on the old pipeline route across Chilliwack as installation of the new line goes forward.

"There is still time to direct FVRD staff to include in the FVRD Argument-in-Chief that the NEB make one of the conditions for Trans Mountain Expansion Project approval be that this route change be made for both new and old pipelines to protect Chilliwack and Yarrow drinking water, as well as the economic, ecological, and recreational value of the Vedder River.

"We will never have a better opportunity to remove this threat from the water supplies and river."

In the city's official letter of comment to the NEB identifies "protection of the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer" during the construction of the pipeline and after.

Yarrows well as also adjacent to the Vedder River, and are therefore influenced by the water quality in the Vedder River downstream of the Trans Mountain crossing of the Vedder River, Stephen said.

"As you may be aware, that river crossing is also near the Vedder Mountain Fault, adding seismic risk to this critical section of the pipeline route," he wrote.

Another point is that the pipeline route crosses at a point where the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer's vulnerability is classified as "high and extreme."

"Despite all of that, the city speaks only of mitigating risk through such things as monitoring groundwater and use of heavier pipe across the aquifer, missing the simplest and surest way of protecting Chilliwack and Yarrow drinking water supplies: change the route to remove the pipeline from over the aquifer."

But Stam pointed out that even intervenors in the process won't have any input or power to determine the alignment or route of the pipeline.

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