Pipeline emergency simulation exercise for Enbridge Line 9B
PHOTO COURTESY COALITION VIGILANCE OLÉODUCS DE MONTRÉAL
Firefighters used all the same equipment as they would in an actual emergency response, including a boom placed into the Rivière de l’Île during the December 2 exercise.
Residents in the vicinity of Sainte-Justine de Newton were startled Saturday, December 2, to see a contingent of ambulances, firetrucks, provincial Environment Ministry trucks, and Enbridge Pipeline Company environmental response vehicles near the area of Rang 7 and Route 325.
“It was a simulation exercise,” said Sainte-Justine de Newton and Sainte-Marthe Fire Department Director Patrice Lavergne of the more than 25 firefighters from both towns at the scene. “It’s the first operation of that nature in Quebec and it went very well,” said Lavergne of the exercise he organized and coordinated with the pipeline company.
“We responded as though it were an actual call,” said Lavergne, describing the command post set-up and assigning firefighters to their respective tasks. “The evacuation and emergency plans were pre-established and firefighters went door-to-door, just as they would in an actual event.”
Reaction from the MRC-VS
“That’s fine that they had a successful simulation exercise,” said Municipalité régionale de comté Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC-VS) Communications Director Simon Richard. “But the questions we’ve been asking from Enbridge still haven’t been answered, and they won’t be answered by a simulation exercise.”
The contentious Enbridge 9B Pipeline reversal plan has been operational for two years. Oil is pumped from its extraction sites in Alberta and North Dakota eastward towards refineries in eastern Montreal. Local Vaudreuil-Soulanges residents and grassroots organizations fought the proposal for years, lobbying the National Energy Board (NEB) claiming it was dangerous to reverse the flow in a 40-year-old pipeline, a large portion of which traverses agricultural terrain in our region and which lies precipitously close to the Ottawa River – the source of drinking water for most of the Island of Montreal.
Product carried in Line 9B
“What they didn’t tell the firefighters (at the simulation) was that part of the product in the pipeline doesn’t float – it sinks,” said a spokesperson for Coalition Vigilance Oléoducs de Montréal, a claim that Director Lavergne disputed.
Enbridge Senior Advisor for Community Engagement Ken Hall said while both claims are, technically, correct, many factors come into play in determining the speed at which the product sinks.
PHOTO COURTESY COALITION VIGILANCE OLÉODUCS DE MONTRÉAL
Approximately 40 emergency response vehicles took part in the simulation exercise.
“All of the products that we carry in our pipelines including Quebec have a viscosity rating of less than one meaning they will float,” said Hall. Of the classifications of heavy oil products, some will sink if they’re in water for a prolonged period, depending on water temperature, turbidity, and the presence of suspended solids including leaves and branches onto which the product could adhere. “But it doesn’t happen in an hour,” said Hall. “It takes time for that to occur.”
Hall also disputed reports that diluted bitumen, a heavy oil product, is being transported through Line 9B, saying customers in Lévis, Quebec are not equipped to refine that type of oil.
“Most of the oil carried on line 9B is light crude oil,” he said. “It has a much lighter viscosity so it floats for much longer.”
Previous protest activities
As reported in Your Local Journal December 7, 2015, a fenced-in but otherwise unguarded shutoff valve exists in the area near the Ontario border. Immediately after the flow operation commenced, three protestors from the group ‘Coule pas chez nous’ turned off the valve then chained themselves to the valve and enclosure and complained that the person who had answered the phone at Enbridge’s emergency phone number was not able to speak or understand French.
Modification of laws needed
YLJ FILE PHOTO/CARMEN MARIE FABIO
The shutoff valve in Sainte-Justine de Newton had been targeted by protesters two years ago when the line became operational.
The MRC-VS has been a vocal critic on the lack of communication from both Enbridge and TransCanada Pipeline concerning specific information on what safety measures would be put in place to deal with a potential oil spill in the region. The TransCanada project was eventually scuttled in October, 2017 due to lack of social acceptance along with declining oil prices and a change in the National Energy Board (NEB) review process concerning the greenhouse gas emissions of processing, transporting, and using the fuel.
Further, Richard said the law is unclear on who’s responsible for organizing and implementing simulation exercises on the scope required to deal with a potential oil-spill in the region.
“The MRC participated in all the consultations, the committees with the NEB but it didn’t work out,” said Richard. “The only thing that will work is to modify the law and that would need to be done at the federal level.”
Ottawa River concerns
Though a similar joint simulation exercise was conducted last year with the towns of Hudson and Vaudreuil-Dorion, both which border the Ottawa River, newly elected Hudson Mayor Jamie Nicholls said he stands behind the MRC-VS statement.
“There’s not a coordinated response strategy,” he said. “One can’t be developed unless we have all the information necessary.”
A prepared media statement issued by Enbridge states, in part, “Enbridge has comprehensive emergency response plans for all our pipelines that are reviewed and tested regularly, including multiple equipment deployment drills per year.”
It also says, “Enbridge has also met with all relevant Emergency Response Agencies in Quebec to discuss Line 9 emergency response plans and continues to comply with the conditions set out by the National Energy Board as part of its approval of the Line 9B Reversal and Line 9 Capacity Expansion Project.”