Latest leak shows vulnerability of older pipelines

The Exxon Pegasus Pipeline incident should be a warning to Chilliwack.

Pegasus, the flying horse, also often refers to ‘spring’ and ‘well’.  This week it refers to the 50 year old Exxon Pegasus Pipeline, which has thus far spewed 12,000 barrels of tar sands diluted bitumen into the city and environment of Mayflower, Arkansas.  The photographs are horrific.  Residents have been evacuated and many don’t want to return to their new homes.  According to industry standards a 15 per cent cleanup of any oil leak is considered successful.

The Pegasus pipeline is 50 years old and carried 90,000 barrels of oil per day.  Here in Chilliwack the Kinder Morgan/Trans Mountain pipeline is 60 years old and carries 300,000 barrels per day, including recently added diluted bitumen.  They intend to triple it now that they have committed customers, and maybe more than triple if more customers step up.  Most of the volume would apparently go to China.

Just today the Chilliwack Progress reported that the FVRD has approved Kinder Morgan to conduct a corridor study in Cheam Lake Wetlands.  Media quoted Director John Van Laerhoven saying “With the new technology that companies have now, do we prefer that we move fuel through a 40-50 year old pipeline, as opposed to a new one?”.  Ian Anderson, President of Kinder-Morgan, Canada, said at a local meeting that the existing pipeline would not be replaced whether approval for the tripling is approved or not.  He also said that the old pipeline has an unlimited life.

At a concurrent Kinder Morgan Open House to inform locals about this tripling of the current pipeline to almost 900,000 a technician suggested cracks in pipelines often cannot be identified using current monitoring technology. Kinder Morgan is referred to by the Bellingham, Washington-based Pipeline Safety Trust as “the poster child for pipeline problems” and has a long list of conflict with government agencies, courts, employees, and the environment that it moves through.

Through Chilliwack the existing pipeline passes over our aquifer immediately behind the Watson Elementary School, as well as other suburban, farm, commercial and ecologically sensitive parts of the City and area.  Much of it is through the ‘protected groundwater zone’ of the aquifer as identified on the city website which states: “The Sardis-Vedder Aquifer is particularly vulnerable to contamination – the water table lies only a shallow 5 – 10 metres below the surface. Chemical or waste materials travel only a short distance through the soil to impact groundwater quality”.

The pipeline is as shallow as three feet.

So if the Greek character Pegasus often denotes ‘spring’ and ‘well’, what does Kinder-Morgan denote?

I recently heard on the CBC that based on current plans Mr. Kinder intends to personally reap $6 billion, yes billion, from the Kinder Morgan/Trans Mountain pipeline.  Ian Anderson, again, the President of Kinder Morgan Canada, has said on at least two occasions that this pipeline will result in 15-30 permanent jobs.

I wonder what the Greek gods would make of this.


Karen Ireland

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