The City of Chilliwack’s “significant and vulnerable” aquifer that supplies 80,000 people with high-quality, even award-winning, water is of the utmost concern to municipal officials when it come to the location of Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion project.
A National Energy Board (NEB) hearing was held in Chilliwack mid-January regarding the company’s pipeline route realignment application.
The existing pipeline runs through Watson elementary’s school yards and several homes on Roseberry and Montcalm roads. The expansion, which will triple the capacity of the 1,100-kilometre oil pipeline, was approved by the NEB to run in the BC Hydro right-of-way to the north of the existing route.
Trans Mountain applied to re-route the new pipeline in the existing right-of-way, something the city opposes because of its proximity to the city’s drinking water wells.
“The City of Chilliwack is opposed to the reroute application,” deputy director of engineering Rod Sanderson said in opening statements at the hearing on Jan. 15. “The proposed route is much closer to city wells than the BC Hydro route and puts the pipeline in the capture zone of the city’s drinking water wells. That means that any contaminants released from the pipeline could flow into the wells.”
Sanderson explained how city operations supply approximately 80,000 people with drinking water, a number expected to rise to 100,000 over the next 20 years.
“This is an extremely significant and vulnerable water source,” he said. “It’s also an excellent water source.”
Trans Mountain defends the re-route application arguing that both routes are outside the aquifer area anyway, and in the unlikely event of a leak, material would run to the north towards the Fraser River away from the aquifer.
A decision on the pipeline routing by the NEB will likely take a number of months.