Pipelines and schools

Author
Paul J. Henderson
While Kinder Morgan’s plan to nearly triple the capacity of its Trans Mountain oil pipeline has hit the provincial election campaign trail, work is being done to make parents and educators aware of the proximity of the pipeline to schools.

Retired Unsworth elementary teacher Wendy Major is part of a working group backed by the B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF) looking to get the word out about the route of the pipeline.

The Working Group on Pipelines and School Safety has also created a questionnaire that has been issued to 15 schools in Chilliwack along the route of the pipeline.

“I taught for 13 years at Unsworth and

I never knew there was that old Kinder Morgan line going through the farmer’s field,” Major told the Times.

“I’ve lived there in Chilliwack since 1967 and I didn’t even know where the pipeline went until less than a year ago.”

With the help of the Wilderness Committee, the working group has also created a map that shows the route of the pipeline and schools along the way.

In Chilliwack, four schools are “red-flagged” as being within 200 metres of the pipeline and a further 15 are “black-flagged” as “within blocks” of the route.

The closest it runs to a school is at Watson elementary, where the pipeline runs under the back sports field. The line similarly runs near the back sports field at Vedder middle.

The other two close schools include Unsworth and John Calvin elementary, however, Major looked at the map and actually thinks Mt. Slesse is within 200 metres of the pipeline at the spot it crosses Tyson Road.

In the questionnaire, the group asks if respondents have heard about the pipeline, if they know about what is shipped in the pipe and if the schools have emergency procedures specific to a spill of something like diluted bitumen.

Kinder Morgan posted a response Monday on the Trans Mountain project website to the question of pipeline safety and schools.

“Living or being active near our pipeline does not pose a health risk,” the message said, in part.

“Where the pipeline runs near schools, we are open to working with individual schools or districts to fully support their safety efforts and ensure their emergency response plans and ours are co-ordinated.”

Kinder Morgan has proposed a $5.4-billion expansion of its 1,150kilometre pipeline that runs from Edmonton to Burnaby, increasing capacity from the current 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 890,000 bpd.

While the company maintains safety is paramount and spills are rare, there have been incidents in recent years. In January 2012 a holding tank at the company’s Sumas Mountain terminal site in Abbotsford was the site of a 110,000-litre leak.

There have also been two other recent leaks on the pipeline, including the 2007 rupture of the pipeline in a Burnaby neighbourhood, which sprayed nearby homes with crude oil after a contractor struck the line.

Retired Burnaby teacher Mary Hatch was one of those evacuated in 2007 and is also involved in the pipeline/school working group.

For details on the project from Kinder Morgan, visit www.transmountain.com. And for information on other schools near the pipeline between Hope and Burnaby visit www.pipe-up.net.

phenderson@chilliwacktimes.com
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