An aging Enbridge pipeline that runs across Ontario has had at least 35 spills far more than reported to federal regulators but many municipalities along its route have never been informed of the incidents, a CTV W5 investigation reveals.
The National Energy Board, which regulates pipelines in Canada, has records of seven spills, while Enbridge told the investigative program there had been 13.
But W5s analysis of information from the energy board, the company and Ontarios Ministry of the Environment showed 35 spills associated with the 830-kilometre Line 9. (The Quebec government refused to provide W5 with any information).
The company is seeking federal approval to increase and reverse flow on the 38-year-old pipeline and use it to transport, in part, diluted bitumen from Albertas oilsands.
Its quite alarming, said Brian McHattie, a city councillor in Hamilton, where seven leaks over the years have released nearly 3,000 litres of crude oil at company facilities northwest of the city. This is new information for me.
McHattie said the information raises concern about what is shared with municipalities. Hamilton staff met regularly with Enbridge officials since the company submitted its application, but none, to McHatties knowledge, were ever informed of the spills.
They just havent been very forthcoming with us, said McHattie. It just makes you less confident in their integrity as a company and their willingness to share information and be above-board.
Companies are required only to report hydrocarbon spills to the National Energy Board that are larger than 1,500 litres equivalent to about 25 tanks of gas in an average car or could have a significant adverse effect on the environment.
Enbridge spokesperson Graham White wrote in an email to the Star that the 13 leaks and ruptures noted in pipeline engineering assessments refer to mainline spills. The remainder were spills at facilities, he wrote.
Ontarios Ministry of the Environment requires all spills to be reported, both those occurring on the main line and those within associated facilities. The ministry recorded 22 spills between 2003 and 2013. Just one occurred on the main line, spokesperson Kate Jordan told the Star.
Provincial law also requires that all spills be reported to municipalities in which they occur, but there are many exceptions. Spills such as those occurring at company facilities are usually exempt.
Cramahe Mayor Marc Coombs said he first learned of five spills that together leached 1,824 litres of oil when he was contacted by a W5 reporter.
We were not notified of any of them, said Coombs. It does (raise concerns), from the point of view of transparency.
The Calgary pipeline company raised the ire of Terrebonne, just outside Montreal, when municipal officials learned of a 2011 spill of 4,000 litres at Enbridges local facility more than two years later. The revelation came in the midst of controversial public hearings in front of the National Energy Board.
Terrebonne was surprised (by) the Enbridge attitude in this file, you know, because according to us Enbridge, as a good corporate citizen, has a moral responsibility to inform the city that a spill was occurring in that sector, a sector where there is a college, professional training centre, sports complex, daycare and several more businesses, spokesperson Joël Goulet told W5.
Goulet said the company was willing to notify Terrebonne of similar incidents in the future.
Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said the city isnt usually notified when spills are contained within facilities and dont require municipal staff to be involved in containment or cleanup. He said the city hadnt heard about the nine spills linked with Line 9 facilities in the past decade but it should.
Its just a good practice to notify, and then we can make our own judgment whether we need to do anything further, said Bradley. Just tell us. Thats all we want to know.
Enbridge spokesperson White said standards and expectations have changed dramatically in a short period of time.
In the past, if there was zero impact to municipalities and leaks were able to be completely and safely maintained, managed and cleaned, on sites that had well-managed and implemented spill prevention and contingency plans, we would report it to regulators as required, but there was no requirement or stated request from municipalities to inform them of incidents that did not impact them in any way whatsoever, White wrote in an email to the Star.
We fully understand that expectations have changed due to the prominence that pipeline issues have achieved in recent years, and we are successfully working with municipalities and local emergency responders to inform them of any incident, regardless of whether or not it has any impact off our sites.
Pipeline War airs at 7 p.m. Saturday on CTVs W5.