Oil spill consultant speaks out against Enbridge pipeline

A B.C. oil spill expert who was hired to consult in the wake of the infamous Exxon Valdez spill says the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline is too risky to proceed.

“The consequences of a major oil spill along B.C.’s north coast could be catastrophic and irreversible,” Gerald Graham wrote in his submission to the Joint Review Panel studying the Enbridge proposal. “With a 14.1 per cent probability of such a potentially disastrous spill occurring, the overall threat level posed by Northern Gateway is unacceptably high.”

Graham has been examining oil-spill issues off the B.C. coast since the late 1980s and now runs Worldocean Consulting Ltd. Using numbers provided by Enbridge, he estimates there is a one in seven chance that a small, but still significant spill (roughly 31,500 barrels) will occur over the life of the pipeline project.

Kinder Morgan proposes bigger pipeline through B.C.
Pipeline spurs showdown on aboriginal rights
B.C. opposition to Northern Gateway pipeline higher than ever: poll

“It’s not a question of whether the benefits outweigh the risks,” he said. “If a project such as this could have significant adverse environmental effects, then it should not proceed.”

In addition to the loss of habitat and animal life, Graham is concerned about the impact an oil spill would have on First Nations communities. Even a small spill could result in a kind of “cultural genocide,” he said.

“We’re talking about the way of life of several coastal First Nations communities. An oil spill on the coast could completely destroy their way of life. Nothing can compensate them for that.”

Should there be a spill, Graham worries that water conditions, climate and the isolated nature of the B.C. coast would hamper the response time.

“The conditions there can be very severe, even at the best of times,” he said. “You might not even be able to get boats out there on the water to respond to a spill.”

Enbridge has refuted concerns about the project and defended the safety record of the region. In a prior interview with Metro, Enbridge spokesperson Ivan Giesbrecht said 1,560 vessels carrying petroleum products sailed into Kitimat between 1982 and 2009 without incident.

“There’s some assumptions that have been made that there is going to be a spill, and we would disagree with that,” Giesbrecht said.

Tsleil-Waututh Urges to Public to Give Equal Attention to Kinder Morgan Proposal

Tsleil-Waututh Urges to Public to Give Equal Attention to Kinder Morgan Proposal

Canada NewsWire

NORTH VANCOUVER, BC, Jan. 14, 2013

Trans Mountain pipeline proposal now larger than Enbridge’s Northern Gateway

NORTH VANCOUVER, BC, Jan. 14, 2013 /CNW/ – As hearings for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline move to Vancouver this week, Tsleil-Waututh Nation is reminding citizens and their leaders that Kinder Morgan is planning an even larger pipeline project to export bitumen through British Columbia and the Lower Mainland.

“It’s important to pay attention to the risks posed by Northern Gateway, but we can’t forget that Kinder Morgan has even larger plans for shipping bitumen across B.C. through the Trans Mountain pipeline,” says Chief Justin George, Tsleil-Waututh Nation. “Both of these pipelines present an enormous threat to the way of life of all British Columbians. Pipelines are an issue that everyone in the province should be thinking about during the coming election.”

As of January 11, 2013, Kinder Morgan announced that they plan to transport 890,000 barrels of oil per day through their Trans Mountain pipeline. In comparison, Enbridge says on its website that it is proposing to transport 525,000 barrels per day via Northern Gateway.

“Kinder Morgan continually claims that their project is merely the twinning of an existing route, but this is a misrepresentation,” continues George. “In fact, they are building an entirely new pipeline along a new route, and increasing their capacity by 590,000 barrels per day.”

“Everyone should be concerned by Kinder Morgan’s safety record,” says Carleen Thomas, Councillor, Tsleil-Waututh Nation. “There have been 78 spills since 1951. The largest of these spills have taken place since Kinder Morgan took over the line in 2005. If this is what happens at their current pipeline capacity, imagine what could happen if they get their way?

“We’re calling on all citizens to ask serious questions of their leaders about these pipelines,” continues Thomas. “And we need all community leaders to begin working together to find creative, sustainable solutions for transitioning away from oil dependency.”

Tsleil-Waututh is adamantly opposed to Kinder Morgan’s proposal to build a new pipeline to bring crude oil/bitumen to foreign markets through Burrard Inlet and the Salish Sea. The proposal would see the transport of crude oil expanded from its present level of approximately 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day. The Nation has experienced the results of crude oil handling and refining on Burrard Inlet for a number of decades. The Nation is expecting government-to-government consultation on this project.

About Tsleil-Waututh Nation
Tsleil-Waututh Nation is a progressive and vibrant Coast Salish community of approximately 500 members located along the shores of Burrard Inlet in North Vancouver, B.C., Canada. For more information please visit www.twnation.ca.

SOURCE: Tsleil-Waututh Nation

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/1013704#ixzz2I428lKSp

Alberta lakes show chemical effects of oilsands, study finds

Pollutants from 50 years of oilsands production found in lake 90 km from facilities

A new study released today suggests chemicals from 50 years of oilsands production are showing up in increasing amounts in lakes in northern Alberta. And the effects are being felt much farther away than previously thought.

The joint study between scientists at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., and Environment Canada looked at core samples from five lakes close to the oilsands mining and upgrading operations in Fort McMurray, Alta. They also studied samples from Namur Lake, 90 kilometres northwest.

The authors focused on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. These are cancer-causing chemicals that are released when things are burned. They can occur naturally — from forest fires, volcanic activity and geological deposits — but burning petroleum in the production of the oilsands leaves a particular fingerprint, so the scientists were able to trace where the PAHs in the core samples came from.

A new study has found heightened levels of cancer-causing chemicals traced to Alberta’s oilsands developments in lakes surrounding Fort McMurray (lower right in this Google satellite map image), including Lake Namur, marked by the A. (Google Maps)
The study found that the levels of PAHs in all six lakes had increased anywhere from 2½ times to 23 times background levels in the early 1960s, before the start of oilsands mining in the region. The PAHs fall into the water from air pollution and are deposited in the mud over time.

One of the study’s authors, biologist John Smol from Queen’s University, says these formerly pristine northern lakes now have the same chemical composition as lakes near urban areas.

“This is an early warning indicator of what is happening, he said. “These lakes are not pollution pits by any means, but these wilderness lakes are similar to your typical urban lake.”

In response to the study, Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent said that the industry has been making an effort to reduce its pollution but he also says that the new federal-provincial monitoring system that was announced last year will play a big part in keeping an eye on contaminants coming from the oilsands.

“Certainly oilsands operators in the last 22 years, since 1990, have reduced their [greenhouse gases] for example and their other contaminants by close to 40 per cent. But this report reminds us of the need of continuing cumulative monitoring to be sure we don’t get into situations where cumulative levels do get past acceptable levels.”

Smol says scientists were surprised to see that even Namur Lake, the farthest away, was being affected.

“The footprint of the tarsands is much further,” he said. “Here we have effects 90 kilometres away.”

The study warns the chemical deposits will increase as oilsands production in northern Alberta triples in size in the next 25 years.

Other studies have warned of problems

The effect of the oilsands on the environment is highly controversial. There was little monitoring of the air and water in the region before the production started and there is a polarized debate about what is considered “natural” occurrence of petroleum deposits in lakes and rivers.

But other studies have suggested problems. A study in 2010 by University of Alberta scientist David Schindler discovered deformed fish in Lake Athabasca downstream from the oilsands. It caused a huge public outcry and eventually led to a federal-provincial environmental monitoring plan for the Alberta oilsands announced last February.

Monday’s study concludes there is “little doubt of the unprecedented increases of PAHs” in northeastern Alberta’s lakes, and warns of “striking contaminant increases consistent with the prevailing winds blowing across local upgrading facilities and surface-mining areas.”

The scientists also took a look at how the chemicals from the oilsands are affecting zooplankton, which are sort of the canary in the coal mine in freshwater research. Zooplankton are tiny little organisms the size of a dot that float around in water and are eaten by fish.

So far, the study shows the zooplankton are doing fine, with numbers at an increasing level. Scientists think warmer temperatures caused by climate change are actually helping them to survive the effects of the chemicals. But that may only be short-term good news.

The study warns of the “unknown” long-term ecological effects of the PAHs, as increasing amounts of the chemicals occur in freshwater lakes and are absorbed by fish, birds and up the food chain to humans.

Go here for the report itself… http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2013/01/07/pol-oilsands-alberta-lakes-pollution-pah.html

Chevron’s MTBE spill: How high school students discovered the chemical leak in 2001

Jennifer Moreau
Here’s an interesting bit of local history.

As you know, we’ve been following the ongoing Chevron oil leak at the North Burnaby refinery since last spring. Local residents have raised the issue of the MTBE leak at Chevron, which happened years ago. MTBE is an additive to gas that was banned in the U.S. after it started showing up in drinking water all over the country. Chevron in Burnaby used to use MTBE up until 2000, and apparently it had leached into the ground because the tank it was in had a rusted-out bottom.

I was chatting with Judi Marshall about Chevron’s history, and she mentioned that the MTBE leak (the stuff that was getting offsite) was discovered by some local high school students in 2001. She sent this story from 10 years ago… (keep reading below, there are a couple other posts on the same subject.)


By Murray Dobbin

May 29 2001 – There’s a story from British Columbia that warrants exposure across the country because it speaks to the issue of citizenship — the flesh and blood kind, the corporate variety and their differences. Let’s call this a comparison-shopping column in deference to our dominant cultural paradigm. Which of the following citizens would you choose?

It all started with two high school students, Matthew Clive, 17, and Kevin Kelln, 16, doing a science project for their grade 11 class at North Burnaby’s Alpha Secondary School. The goal was “to determine the effects of the Chevron refinery on the surrounding environment and community.” The refinery in question is on Burrard Inlet. When they got the results of their groundwater tests back from the private lab, they discovered the water, taken from north of the refinery, was contaminated by MTBE, a gasoline additive.

They then discovered that MTBE is so potentially dangerous and so persistent once it enters the environment that a CBS 60 Minutes report referred to it as “the biggest environmental crisis of the next decade.” The United States announced a phase-out plan last year. California has moved even faster to discontinue its use because it has more than its share of the hundreds of public water systems that have been ruined by the stuff. Possible human health problems include cancer, asthma and depression of the central nervous system.

When Mr. Clive and Mr. Kelln revealed their findings to the community, with the help of the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation, Chevron simply denied there was a problem. Their community affairs manager Ray Lord told the media “There is nothing operationally here that would indicate any problems.” That was on April 8. But Chevron had a different story for the B.C. Ministry of the Environment (ME). Four days earlier they had told ME staff about “finding a ‘pool’ of MTBE-contaminated groundwater” on their site with concentrations “significantly higher than those found off site.”

Matthew says Chevron called him at home and told him he wasn’t being “helpful.” Chevron’s manager, Tom Kovar, penned a letter to the company’s Community Advisory Panel decrying the “unwarranted alarm” that was being created.

Stay with me now, dates are important here. Just days after the students revealed their findings, Burnaby’s Director of Engineering did his own testing of the same sites examined by the students. He found levels three times as high as theirs. He informed Chevron of the test results on April 17, two days before Mr. Kovar wrote his letter.

In the meantime, Burnaby City Council was becoming infuriated with being kept in the dark. At two heated meetings it discovered that the Ministry of the Environment had a verbal agreement with Chevron not to reveal the on-site MTBE contamination to the public or to Burnaby council. It wanted Chevron to have time to get its story straight, something “we do all the time” admitted ME spokesman Ray Rob. The Ministry, said Mr. Rob, was aware of a “plume” of contamination covering over 2,500 square feet at a depth of 100 feet. Readings were as high as 2,000 times greater than that found by Burnaby’s Engineering Department.

But that’s not all. The flurry of testing resulting from the students’ chance findings has now revealed that the “plume” of MTBE also contains Benzene. And if you think MTBE is bad, benzene is one of the world’s nastiest chemicals. We know it causes lymphoma, leukemia and other blood diseases. Chevron’s Ray Lord informed me that Workers Compensation inspectors did an unscheduled examination of the site and were satisfied that workers were not in any danger.

I asked Matthew Clive what he thought about all the commotion he and Kevin had caused. “If we hadn’t done this, no one would have known. But the thing that concerned me the most was the secret agreement that, as long as all the contamination remained on the [Chevron] property, they wouldn’t say anything publicly. Then it was off the site and they still didn’t say anything.”

Chevron says the off-site levels are barely above the acceptable levels for drinking water. But that’s hardly the point. There wasn’t supposed to be any MTBE off site. And this sixty-five-year-old refinery is falling apart, with numerous accidents and spills over the past few years. What was Chevron planning to do when it closed down? This is where disasters like the Sydney Tar Ponds get started. Despite this, corporate lobby groups insist that voluntary self-regulation is the way to go. God help us.

One last note. Corporate citizen Chevron is part owner of rights to offshore oil in northern B.C. British Columbians might want to ask how they could trust Chevron with such a delicate operation (if it goes ahead) when we can’t even trust them to keep their own site clean or tell the public about contamination?

Maybe we could ask real citizens Matthew and Kevin to keep an eye on them.

And here’s a press release from SPEC, the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation.


Burnaby students find leak of toxic gas additive near Chevron refinery

VANCOUVER- Two grade eleven science students from North Burnaby’s Alpha Secondary have found toxic methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) gas additive draining into Burrard Inlet from a pipe below Chevron’s North Burnaby refinery.

Matthew Clive, 17, and Kevin Kelln, 16, were conducting a science project to determine “the effects of the Chevron oil refinery on the surrounding environment and community.”

According to their report, Clive and Kelln took samples around the refinery and in adjacent Confederation Park ” which is designated as a dog park and inhabited by animals. The trail is utilized on a daily basis and many people continue down to the ocean and along the railroad tracks.” A sample from a pipe halfway between the refinery and Chevron’s nearby tank farm showed a level of 6.9 micrograms/litre of MTBE. Clive and Kelln say that “when surveyors went and tested the ground water in California the highest recorded contamination was recorded at 5.6 micrograms/litre.”

MTBE is added to gasoline as an octane booster and is notoriously difficult to contain. Even tiny amounts of MTBE can poison water supplies such as happened in Santa Monica, Calif. A 1998 University of California study determined that “MTBE is an animal carcinogen with the potential to cau
se cancer in humans.” California is phasing out MTBE.

Chevron’s North Burnaby refinery is a major MTBE producer. Last May, when 80,000 litres of MTBE leaked from a tank at the refinery, Chevron and Environment Ministry officials assured the material was contained on site. After two workers cleaning up the spill were injured in an explosion a week later, the Environment Minister called for a safety review of the accident plagued refinery. The review is expected to be completed by early 2002.

Whatever the results of the review, Clive and Kelln have reached their own conclusion. “The Chevron Refinery in North Burnaby has a negative effect on the community and the environment,” the two students say in their report.

Clive and Kelln will release full details of their study at a Science Fair at the UBC Student Union Building on April 6 and 7.