Opponents of the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline are pointing to a crude oil spill at the Sumas pump station in Abbotsford, British Columbia Saturday as a wake-up call for what could happen if the expanded pipe is extended all the way to Burnaby, B.C.
The provincial environment ministry said Crown-owned Trans Mountain Corporation initially reported the spill at 1,500 litres, but an update just after midnight Monday morning placed it at 190,000 litres. Sumas First Nation Chief Dalton Silver said the spill occurred just south of a cultural and burial ground of great significance to his community. “Our main concern is for the clean-up of this spill and preventing further impacts to our territory,” he said. “We need to have our monitors on the ground immediately.”
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Later Monday morning, The Canadian Press reported the pipeline had reopened while an investigation into the incident continued. But not before pipeline opponents had raised flags about the wider implications of the incident.
“In an earthquake, they would spill and likely start a fire, and the forest is right next to them,” said Karl Perrin of Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion. “So in a dry summer, you’ve got a real danger for any students at [Simon Fraser University]…being trapped up there and succumbing to smoke from the fire.”
Even if it doesn’t burn, Perrin said the crude oil going through the pipeline is toxic in its raw form, News 1130 reports. “There’s benzene, which is carcinogenic, and that’s something that evaporates off the spill. And it leads to leukemia,” he said. “There are a number of toxic gases that off-gas from a spill.”
A company investigation “found the spill was related to a fitting on a 2.5-centimetre piece of pipe connected to the mainline,” Global News reports. “It said there was no pipeline expansion construction taking place nearby at the time.”