Opinion: Pipeline risk too great

Construction of an additional oil pipeline across the sole source of Chilliwack's drinking water is a risk not worth taking.

Hike up to the water reservoirs that serve Metro Vancouver and you’ll be greeted by a fence.

Access to the reservoirs is restricted and granted only on arranged tours.

The reason is a simple one: The lakes supply drinking water to more than 2.4 million people, making their security and protection a priority.

Travel east 130 kilometres and you’ll come to Chilliwack.

Its water source serves a population nearly 90,000. There are signs prominently posted on city roads, advising residents to take care of this resource. The city’s own website intones,  “The City is dedicated to monitoring, protecting, and conserving this resource in order to ensure that residents will continue to be able to enjoy this high quality water for years to come.”

And yet, above this resource – an aquifer that until recently didn’t even require chlorination – runs a pipeline that transports more than 300,000 barrels of oil a day.

Built in 1953, the pipeline predates Chilliwack’s reliance on the Vedder aquifer.

And while it has operated without serious incident during the interceding 63 years, the potential for disaster remains.

That risk was front and centre as a federal panel seeking public input on a plan to build a second pipeline along the same route arrived in Chilliwack Thursday.

The proposal would nearly triple the amount of oil crossing the aquifer, bringing it to 890,000 barrels of crude oil a day.

The City of Chilliwack understands what’s at stake. “Once contaminated,”   it told the National Energy Board in a letter of comment sent months ago, “it is unlikely that the aquifer could be remediated adequately to use for drinking water purposes again.”

Granted, pipeline breaks are rare. But they do happen.

If one were to happen in Chilliwack the drinking water for 90,000 people would be ruined.

Some will say that is a risk worth taking. Pipeline construction will create badly needed jobs, tax revenue to the city will be enhanced, and Canada’s overall economy will be made stronger.

Perhaps.

But all those benefits can still be realized with one adjustment. If the pipeline is to proceed, build it outside Chilliwack’s aquifer, and at the same time reroute the existing pipeline to follow the same route.

Just Posted

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack woman’s 100-km birthday marathon to benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

Dancers from the Sts’ailes First Nation perform the eagle dance at a welcome banner dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 10. “Ey Swayel” is a Halq̓eméylem term translated as ‘a good day.’ (Adam Louis/Observer)
VIDEO: ‘A good day’ for Agassiz school as Sts’ailes welcome banner is dedicated

Banner hangs above the school’s entrance, welcoming students, staff and visitors

RCMP investigating June 15, 2021 crash. (Black Press file)
Chilliwack RCMP say crash into median led to impaired driver investigation

Chrysler 300 driver allegedly collided with tree on Spadina median in June 15 incident

UFV athletes were honoured for their strength and perseverance during the pandemic. (UFV photo)
Fraser Valley athletes recognized in year without sports

UFV Cascades athletes honoured for strength shown during the pandemic

Abbotsford council has given permission for Chilliwack to use the JAMES wastewater treatment plant for the disposal of trucked liquid waste until the end of September.
Chilliwack gets exemption to Abbotsford bylaw prohibiting liquid waste from other cities

Process in place until September while new facility under construction in Chilliwack

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

A search is underway for a 75-year-old fisherman who went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search continues for angler missing between Port Angeles and Victoria

Canadian, U.S. Coast Guard searching for 75-year-old man reported missing Thursday evening

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Most Read