Minister of Education: Pipelines and School Safety

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Jennifer Moreau

BROKE, a group of local residents against Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion, are taking their concerns about schools and pipelines to the provincial government. They wrote this letter to the Education Minister Don McRae today, calling for a B.C. wide plan to deal with any potential risks of oil pipelines close to schools.

Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion
6508 East Hastings Street P.O. Box 44063 Kensington Square, Burnaby, B.C., V5B 1S0


December 14, 2012

Honourable Don McRae:

Companies that transport oil products, or process them, have never been able to guarantee the safety of critical infrastructure, including oil pipelines, terminals, tank farms, sub-stations, refineries or tankers.[i] That is why it is vital that we have safety and health procedures to protect children and staff at schools lying near or adjacent to jet fuel and crude oil pipelines and other oil and refinery infrastructure.

There have been at least 78 leaks, spills and ruptures on the Trans Mountain pipeline alone.[ii] Three have occurred close to schools in the past five years and all required evacuations and one required hospitalizations.

In 2007, for instance, a massive spill from an oil pipeline rupture occurred in the Westridge area of Burnaby. During this incident two hundred and thirty two cubic meters of heavy crude oil was released.[iii] There was no adequate evacuation system in place.

In 2008 a gas pipe rupture occurred overlooking Seaforth Elementary School and a tank farm spill occurred in 2009 very near to Forest Grove as well as Burnaby Mountain Secondary. This sub-station spill involved an estimated 200 cubic meters of oil.

Yet another spill occurred near a Sumas sub-station in 2012. That spill occurred very close to a private school and one hundred and ten cubic meters of oil was release. Evacuations were also required.[iv]

The National Energy Board was very critical of Kinder Morgan’s handling of the Sumas spill because warnings were ignored. The Vancouver Province noted: “The [NEB] report issued earlier this month to interested parties and posted on the NEB site on Nov. 22 found “the leak was detected later than it should have been,” the company’s management of procedures was “inadequate” and that the operator “failed to recognize the leak situation” on two occasions.”[v]

The potential health risks to children in schools near or adjacent to oil pipelines is underlined by the tragedy occurring in Fallon Nevada. A lawsuit launched by a Nevada mother against Kinder Morgan alleges that the company failed to adequately monitor and repair a pipeline that was leaking jet fuel into the ground beneath a school playground over a decade ago. Evidence suggests that this leak contributed to a cluster of childhood cancer cases at the school, and to the 2008 death of 10-year-old cancer victim Ryan Brune.[vi]

However, despite the real and present risk to the health and safety of students and staff from long-term exposure or the potential for future catastrophic events, the Ministry of Education does not have specific guidelines with respect to schools lying adjacent or near oil pipelines, terminals, tank farms, sub-stations, refineries or tankers despite the fact this infrastructure often lies above schools and within seismically active zones.[vii]

Therefore, the Burnaby Residents Opposing KinderMorgan Expansion expects that the province of British Columbia, the Ministry of Education and the Board of Education in Burnaby will:

1. Prepare a safety plan for all affected schools in BC to respond oil spills and/or exposure to the cocktail of toxic chemicals used to transport oil by pipelines, sub-stations, and tankers or stored in tank farms, refineries;

2. Prepare specific evacuation training for school staff in the event of a jet fuel or crude oil spill or leak since jet fuel lines and crude oil lines pose different types of risk to health and safety, and;

3. Develop a long-term gas and oil leak monitoring plan along all oil pipelines, sub-stations, tank farms and refineries near or adjacent to schools and schoolyards throughout the province.

The issue of child and staff safety at schools near or adjacent to oil pipelines, tank farms, sub-stations and refineries is not new. The Burnaby Residents Opposing KinderMorgan Expansion drew public attention to the matter in a news release reported in the Vancouver Province and Burnaby Now on November 24, 2012.[viii]

The Burnaby Teachers Association also adopted a comprehensive resolution on child and staff safety on December 4, 2012, calling on the Provincial government, the Ministry of Education and the Burnaby Board of Education to investigate the specific health and safety risks of long term exposure to jet fuel and other oil products, including diluted bitumen and the chemicals used to transport it, at schools on or near the present oil pipelines and oil tank farms in Burnaby.[ix]

We look forward to hearing from you on this important matter that affects families and teaching staff throughout the province. Should you require additional information, or if you would like to meet in person to discuss any or all of the proposals recommended by the Burnaby Residents Opposing KinderMorgan Expansion, you may contact me at

On behalf of the Burnaby Residents Opposing KinderMorgan Expansion

[i] Morgan Information Session Stoney Creek Community School Burnaby BC October, 24, 2012.

[ii] Trans Mountain Incident Report Table, National Energy Board, 2012. Column 74; July 24, 2007.

[iii] Trans Mountain Incident Report Table, National Energy Board, 2012. Column 76; May 6, 2009.

[iv] Trans Mountain Incident Report Table, National Energy Board, 2012 . Column 79; January 24, 2012.



[vii] E-mail to the Burnaby School District November 29, 2012

[viii]“ Parents raise concerns about pipeline beneath Burnaby schools.” – axzz2F6n8kRmb

[ix] Burnaby Teacher’s Association Dec 4, 2012 “Resolution #7: Pipeline Resolution.”