• Carmen Marie Fabio

Sainte-Justine-de-Newton landslide raises regional concern


PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO

Elected officials including NDP Member of Parliament Anne Minnh-Thu Quach (left, in sunglasses) and pipeline protesters are decrying the continued compromised state of the 7eme Rang in Sainte-Justine-de-Newton that was closed due to a landslide almost six months ago. The road leads to a manual access valve on the Enbridge Line 9B pipeline.

Local elected officials and grassroots environmental groups are calling on the provincial government to take immediate action to address the compromised state of a Sainte-Justine-de-Newton road which is the main access point to the only manual pipeline shutoff valve between Rigaud and Montreal.

“We’re all here with the environment at heart and the protection of our planet,” said Anne Minnh-Thu Quach, NDP Member of Parliament for Salaberry-Suroît who was accompanied at the site by current and former town mayors, Denis Ranger and Patricia Domingos respectively Friday, April 13. “The manual valve is part of Enbridge’s Line 9B that runs through our territory. Since 2012, citizens and the Municipalité régionale de comté Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC-VS) have united in asking questions of the company and asking the federal government to require Enbridge to have a comprehensive emergency measures plan to protect the water table.”

Quach said it would take a mere 12 hours for oil to make its way into the potable water system that serves the population of Montreal. “It’s extremely rapid and we still don’t have an emergency measures plan to protect the water table. We need a response that provides proof of leadership to reduce our dependence on oil energy and further explore green and renewable energy.”

The road in question is 7e Rang just off Montée de la Station. Running parallel to the Rivière Delisle, a roughly 20-metre section of one lane of the road has collapsed and slid down the bank towards the water. Quach and the environmental groups are questioning how the damage, which reportedly occurred last fall, could negatively affect response time to reach the valve in the event of an emergency.

“Any shutoff orders would come from head office in Calgary and it would then take an Enbridge employee one-and-a-half hours to get here,” said Quach. With two sets of concrete barricades currently in place on 7e Rang, the only other way to access the manual valve is by driving across the Ontario border and backtracking. Quach also said the concrete barriers do not appear on any Global Positioning Systems (GPS).

Response from Enbridge

“We can easily access Valve 38 if we need to,” said Ken Hall, Enbridge’s Senior Advisor of Community Engagement who said the company is fully aware of the landslide and its staff knows the alternate route.

Hall also said that particular valve is a legacy of the 40-year-old pipeline and is not used as part of the emergency shut-down process. In the event of an actual emergency, one of the electronic shut-off valves would be deployed.

“As a result of the (flow) reversal, we’ve added 17 more valves to Line 9 east of Toronto,” said Hall. “The closest valve that we do use is Valve 37 is 6.4 kilometres west of Valve 38 and Valve 39 is 16 kilometres east. Those are the valves we would shut down remotely if we were experiencing an incident in that segment of the pipeline.”

Pipeline protesters

Citizen groups in attendance at the site meeting included representatives from Coalition Vigilance Oléoducs, The Council of Canadians, Équiterre, Coule pas chez nous, Vous ne Passerez Pas Québec, and Les Citoyens au Courant. Besides expressing their concern on the road condition, they raised the issue of Enbridge’s numerous excavations at the site.

PHOTO COURTESY CHARLES ST-PIERRE

Pipeline protest groups remain at odds with Enbridge over what constitutes maintenance versus repairs on the line that traverses the region near the spot where the landslide occurred.

“Following their inspections with internal probes, they intervene to do different operations such as installing patches as in the photos,” said Citoyens au Courant member Charles St-Pierre, an electro mechanic by trade. “The argument they always use to save face is that it’s ‘preventive maintenance’ and that can be debatable. It’s true that there was preventive maintenance during the inspection but during their operation on the ground it’s to make repairs.”

Hall disputes this assertion, saying integrity digs are standard maintenance operations on all the company’s pipelines.

“When the tools identify any kind of imperfection on the (interior) wall of the pipe, an electronic data tape notes the exact location of the ‘feature’,” he said. “The integrity management team analyzes the data and send out a crew to (excavate and) investigate visually to determine if there’s been a dent or metal loss due to corrosion. If there’s evidence of corrosion, a dent, or the start of a crack, we will then conduct a repair on the pipeline. That process is preventative maintenance and we’re doing it all the time.”

Road repair

The landslide affecting the municipally-owned 7e Rang resulted, in part, from last year’s unprecedented springtime flooding according to former mayor and current District 6 Councillor Domingos.

PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO

The office of the Ministère de la Sécurité publique said they are awaiting revised geotechnical and hydraulic studies before deciding the next step on addressing the compromised road.

“The dossier is now being bounced around by both the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Public Security,” she told The Journal. “It’s been six months that the file hasn’t moved forward at all.” Domingos said the town has already spent significant money on engineering reports and no one at the ministry level is in agreement with the reports. The town has also submitted numerous photos of the landslide damage and Domingos said if work had started sooner that maybe the road could have been saved.

“It’s difficult for us,” she said. “There are citizens living on that road. If there’s a fire or any emergency, it’ll take longer to reach them.”

Ministère de la Sécurité publique

In a written response to The Journal, Communications Director for the Ministère de la Sécurité publique (MSP) Louise Quentin said analysis on the dossier is underway as the ministry is still waiting for revised geotechnical and hydraulic study from the municipal engineering firm with cost estimates for each of the two options – slope stabilization or permanent displacement of the municipal road.

“The municipality will be entitled to financial assistance for this road according to the program standards,” she wrote but did not provide a specific amount.

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