• John Jantak

New website encourages citizen participation to monitor possible oil pipeline leaks


PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

From left to right – panelists Daniel Green, Anne-Céline Guyon, Patrick Bonin, Katherine Massam, Guy Coderre and Lorraine Caron speak about a new website www.citoyensenvigile.org that encourages citizens to monitor oil pipelines for possible leaks. The public information event was held in Sainte-Justine-de-Newton on Saturday, September 8.

A new internet site was launched by Les Citoyens au Courant to keep Vaudreuil-Soulanges residents informed of the Enbridge 9B underground oil pipeline and encourage citizens to monitor the area for possible leaks. The website launch took place during an afternoon event in Sainte-Justine-de-Newton last Saturday, September 8.

The festive atmosphere of the event which featured live music performances, food, and activities for children belied the seriousness of the topic – the potential for an oil-pipeline breach that could contaminate the town’s and regions’ ground water and environment.

Panel of experts

Katherine Massam was one of the event organizers and spokesperson for Citoyens au Courant. Massam has been monitoring the pipeline for at least the past five years with the help of other locals. She was joined by Daniel Green, Anne-Céline Guyon, Patrick Bonin, Guy Coderre and Lorraine Caron – five experts in their fields related to oil spills, water contamination and related environmental consequences.

“We’re very lucky to have these experts here,” Massam told The Journal. The aim of the website – Citoyens en vigile – is to give ordinary citizens the skills and tools they need to detect possible oil leaks and take immediate action to limit their potential environmental impact.

Oil leakage database

“We’re going to meet with different environmental groups and give people the skills so they can take water samples and see if there’s pollution or contamination locally. We’re working to get people to know about the website and start using the information on it,” said Massam.

“We want to build up an information database about the condition of the pipelines and where they are leaking because they all leak. We can give this information to the National Energy Board (NEB) and hopefully they will force oil companies to replace sections of pipeline that need to be replaced,” Massam added.

Underground contamination

Daniel Green from the Société pour Vaincre la Pollution (SVP) said pipelines are a serious concern for the region. The oil products that are transported via the Enbridge pipeline are similar to the products that were transported by rail tankers when the Lac Mégantic freight train derailed and several tankers exploded in July 2013, according to Green.

“Over and beyond the explosion, what contaminated the downtown core was the surface oil going into the underground sewer systems. There was one to two meters of oil in the basement of the Jean Coutu store. The contamination happened underground,” said Green.

“It was the sewage treatment plant pumping station that spread the oil when it entered the sewers in Lac Mégantic,” he added. “When you look at the spill site and compare it to the devastation of the town, the area of contamination increased 10 to 20 times because of the underground pathway.”

Regional risk underestimated

Green said a major underground oil leak in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region is possible. “We believe we have severely underestimated the toxic oil flow underground in semi-rural and urban environments where the pipeline goes through. This is where people are at risk. We have a high-density population and an underground network of sewers, electrical infrastructure and telecommunications,” he said.

“If there’s a major breach of the Enbridge Pipeline, the same amount of oil that spilled in Lac Mégantic will happen within 15 to 20 minutes of a pipeline breach only it will be underground. This is the path of least resistance. It will travel across towns and villages,” added Green.

He’s calling on citizens to organize and help monitor the pipeline.

“The NEB has essentially abandoned pipeline surveillance by the pipeline companies that now do their surveillance by auto-inspection, auto-evaluation and auto-reporting. We have to change this and the only way to do it is by citizen engagement. That’s why we’re having this event today,” said Green.

For more information about citizen oil pipeline monitoring, visit www.citoyensenvigile.org.

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