The state of the Trans-Northern pipeline raises concerns
Citoyens au Courant (CaC) and concerned residents of Vaudreuil-Soulanges challenge the National Energy Board (NEB) to ensure adequate monitoring of pipelines under its jurisdiction. This follows the discovery of a section of the pipeline owned by Trans-Northern Pipelines Inc. (TPNI) which spans Ontario and Quebec.
The pipeline is supposed to be buried underground, but was found exposed to the elements by two Saint-Lazare residents hiking in the woods near Chemin St-Louis.
The residents discovered a pipeline section in a ravine that passes a stream flowing into the Ottawa River five kilometres away, the source of drinking water for almost 3 million people. Obviously over time, water flow eroded the soil that covered the pipeline without the knowledge of the company and the NEB.
Citizens are concerned about the risk to drinking water from the Montreal area in case of leakage or rupture of the pipeline. This pipeline is supposed to be buried but is now exposed to the weather (frost, thaw, ice), flood and water flow, oxidation, falling trees in the ravine, soil erosion, etc. They are questioning the effectiveness of visual inspections which would normally be made by the company and they challenge the NEB to quickly rectify the situation.
"Despite the reassurances of pipeline operators and the NEB, apparently no ground patrol took place in the wooded area of the municipality of Saint-Lazare in recent years,” said Luc Falardeau of CaC. “The movement of soil by erosion or landslide are a known cause of pipeline failure."
In its most recent report published in January 2016, the Canadian Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development had also identified several gaps in the monitoring of pipelines in the country.
Several residents of Saint-Lazare and the CaC are concerned about what appears to be a lack of monitoring and maintenance of the 1952 pipeline from TNPI crossing the MRC Vaudreuil-Soulanges territory. "How is it that in the first woodland near the Ottawa River this situation prevails?” Asks Sylvie Rozon who resides near where the pipeline passes. "What then of the 850 km of the pipeline between Montreal and Oakville, and to Nanticoke in Ontario?”
According to water treatment expert Guy Coderre, it is absolutely absurd and unacceptable that this pipeline is not better guarded. Daily, 27.5 million litres of petroleum products pass through this pipe and if a spill should occur it puts at risk the safety of the water supply of the greater metropolitan area of Montreal. In case of an oil spill in the Ottawa River, 26 municipal water intakes would be affected within 24 hours. Such a spill would have dramatic consequences for the population. Mr. Coderre added that, "there is no purification plant able to remove hydrocarbons. In the event of a spill, pumping stations will stop the processing chain. Municipal drinking water supplies will last just 12 to 16 hours. Beyond this period, if the situation is not back to normal, people and fire services would be deprived of water."
Since 2008, TNPI is responsible for six of the 13 incidents related to pipeline operations in Quebec. In 2010 alone, two major spills from the pipeline occurred in Quebec. One of 14,000 litres near the banks of the Rivière des Prairies in Laval and one in Montreal East, releasing 1500 litres of aviation fuel. In October of the same year the NEB responded to five spills in less than a year, totaling 200,000 litres of fuel for the entire pipeline, and ordered a reduction of the maximum pressure authorized until fixes were made. But it was in 2003 in Saint-Clet that was the site of the worst spill of this pipeline in Quebec; 25,000 litres of diesel leaked in a farm field contaminating the drainage system.
The original Trans-Northern pipeline was built in 1952. The most critical section to almost 3 million people is located in the Lake of Two Mountains sector, since it carries refined petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel, and heating oil.