Pipeline over aquifer a risk too great

Amid the plethora of unlikely and unrealistic suggestions regarding Canada’s fossil fuel industry of late, a Chilliwack group is offering a modest proposal: Don’t build a new oil pipeline over Chilliwack’s only source of drinking water.

True, a pipeline already exists over the Vedder aquifer. However, the proposal by Kinder Morgan to twin that pipeline along the existing right-of-way elevates the risk to Chilliwack’s water supply unnecessarily.

The City of Chilliwack does acknowledge that risk. “If the aquifer is contaminated due to an accidental oil spill or leak, the water supply to 76,000 residents and businesses will be affected,” it said in its “letter of comment” sent to the National Energy Board.

“Once contaminated, it is unlikely that the aquifer could be remediated adequately to use for drinking water purposes again.”

Simply put, a fractured pipe would put an end to one of the finest sources of drinking water in the country.

Granted, leaks are rare, but they do happen. If one were to happen here, the consequences would be significant.

Given what’s at stake, one would think the City would do all it can to insist the National Energy Board compel Kinder Morgan to find an alternate route.

But Chilliwack has chosen to stop well short of that. Instead, it calls on the National Energy Board to require Kinder Morgan to employ stringent construction techniques and provide adequate mitigation if something were to go wrong.

Cold comfort, especially in an earthquake zone.

A local water advocacy group is calling for more. The WaterWealth Project is asking that the pipeline route be altered to avoid the aquifer (see story, page 1). Further, it says the construction provides a prime opportunity to decommission the existing pipeline and relocate it along the new route.

Both suggestions would carry a cost.

However the cost to Chilliwack, should an accident occur, surely outweigh any inconvenience to Kinder Morgan.

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