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Abbotsford oil spill garnered B.C.-wide reaction

Trans Mountain reps said oil was contained, recovered and slated for disposal after incident Friday
Workers clean up the oil spill in Abbotsford near Trans Mountain’s Sumas Pump Station on Saturday. (Shane MacKichan photo)

An oil spill late Friday night from the Sumas Pump Station owned by Trans Mountain in Abbotsford is garnering reaction from near and far.

“Our main concern is for the cleanup of this spill and preventing further impacts to our territory,” Chief Dalton Silver of the Sumas First Nation said.

The Trans Mountain main line was shut down after an alarm sounded Saturday and crews were dispatched to investigate.

An incident command post was set up over the weekend by Trans Mountain to co-ordinate and manage the cleanup and environmental remediation. Abbotsford Fire Department, Trans Mountain, the National Energy Board, Transport Canada and the B.C. Ministry of Environment personnel were all on the scene at different junctures.

Chief Dalton said Sema:th monitors should be granted access on the ground within hours of an incident of this scope.

“We cannot continue to have our land desecrated by oil spills,” Dalton said. “This is the fourth time in 15 years that this pipeline has had a spill on our land.”

There is also concern that it was close to Lightning Rock – a cultural site with burial grounds that are sacred to the Sema:th and Sto:lo Coast Salish Peoples.

The investigation continues but Trans Mountain officials said the cause was a fitting on a 2.5-centimetre pipe, and stated in a release that the oil was contained, recovered and slated for disposal.

It’s estimated that 1,195 barrels – or up to 190,000 litres was released.

Ian Stephen of the WaterWealth Project noted the timing of the spill.

“Trans Mountain said the leak was from a 2.5-centimetre fitting and that they shut the pipeline down immediately. Yet as much as 190,000 litres of oil spilled. That just days before written evidence is due in Trans Mountain route hearings,” Stephen said.

“It’s absurd that we’re having to fight this Crown corporation over their wanting to add a 91-centimetre pipeline past city wells, through residential neighbourhoods that have the highest density of homes on the entire project route, and through vital salmon habitat including Peach Creek and Browne Creek Wetlands.”

Stephen said the real discussion at this point should be “about retiring the old pipe – not adding another.”

It may be the nature of the beast.

“As long as Canada continues to transport oil, spills will happen – and they will always create the risk of detrimental impacts on nature and people,” said Jay Ritchlin, director general of the David Suzuki Foundation.

With the spill site’s proximity to Lightning Rock, Ritchlin said it was “unacceptable” that Sema:th First Nation’s monitors were not cleared to access the site for 12 hours after the spill incident was reported.

Full transparency and inclusion of Indigenous nations whenever any type of spill occurs has to happen.

“This is a key part of reconciliation and environmental justice,” Ritchlin added.

The crude oil spill is a stark reminder that accidents are bound to happen with this type of fossil fuel infrastructure, he said.

Wilderness Committee reps released video and photos from the scene including the larger one with this story.

Trans Mountain pipeline moves about 300,000 barrels of crude per day from Alberta to B.C.’s terminal in Burnaby.

The pipeline expansion project was green-lighted by the federal government last summer in a move that will triple its capacity.

with files from Ben Lypka, Abbotsford News, and Canadian Press

READ MORE: Trans Mountain pipeline shut down after spill

READ MORE: FN reps should be granted access fast after a spill

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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