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This article was published 25/5/2015 (1839 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Sending oil instead of natural gas through TransCanada’s cross-province pipeline threatens two major aquifers, Winnipeg’s drinking water supply and the pipeline is too old to properly protect against cracking and spills.
That’s according to a coalition of environmental groups opposed to the Energy East project. They released a report on the pipeline’s environmental risks today at The Forks. The report, prepared by retired biophysicist Dennis LeNeveu, lists several waterways and communities at risk of contamination by a spill, including Neepawa, Portage la Prairie and Winnipeg’s drinking water aquaduct. The line crosses two major surface water sources – the Assiniboine Delta aquifer that supplies farmers and town wells and the Sandilands aquifer, which is the headwaters of five watersheds. And, said LeNeveu, the gas line has already seen 30 ruptures across Canada.
"The threats to our water, from our drinking water to all of the rivers and streams, is simply much too great," added Vicki Burns, director of Save Lake Winnipeg. "This pipeline is simply too close for comfort."
A spill similar to the one in Kalamazoo, Mich several years ago could mean Winnipeg is without water entirely for days or weeks, said Alex Paterson of the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition.
But, activists concede that’s a remote possibility.
Tim Duboyce, spokesman for TransCanada's Energy East pipeline, says the company operates 70,000 kilometers of pipelines and there has never been a large-scale integrity leak on its oil lines. There have been small-scale leaks, usually around pumping stations, that were detected by the company’s remote sensors or other leak prevention programs immediately, but nothing like the spill that occurred in on the Kalamazoo River from Enbridge’s pipeline.
"There is no leak that we don’t detect," said Duboyce.
He said TransCanada takes extra precautions around waterways by boosting the thickness of its pipe and by sending remote-controlled "smart pigs" down the line to detect very small trouble spots in the pipeline.
He said, since Alberta’s oilsands will continue to produce oil regardless whether the Energy East project gets the go-ahead, it makes much better safety sense to transport the oil to market by pipeline rather than rail car.
TransCanada is proposing to convert an existing cross-Canada natural gas pipeline into one that can carry 1.1-million barrels of oil from Alberta to refineries in Eastern Canada. The National Energy Board has yet to hold hearings on the company’s application.
On Monday, the groups called on the city and province to reject the Energy East project. Though neither has direct regulatory control over the pipeline, the province could withhold building permits, set strict safety conditions or call its own environmental review of the project, said Paterson.
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Updated on Monday, May 25, 2015 at 1:25 PM CDT: Updates with comments from Tim Duboyce