Pipeline spill would impact Ottawa drinking water, says report

(Press release via Ecology Ottawa)

A spill from the proposed Energy East pipeline could have catastrophic impacts on the Rideau, Mississippi and Ottawa rivers, and put the region’s drinking water at risk. These are the findings of a new report by the independent Montreal-based technical firm Savaria Experts-Conseils Inc.

“The proposed Energy East pipeline would cross 68 watercourses in the Rideau and Mississippi watersheds, including the Rideau and Mississippi rivers,” says Abdelkader Aiachi, a Savaria Experts-Conseils geoscientist with expertise in geochemical and hydrogeochemical modeling, water quality monitoring and environmental impact assessment, and a Ph.D. in Isotope Hydrogeology. “A spill in one of those rivers would impact water quality, aquatic ecosystems and recreational activities.”

“A spill that is allowed to flow down the Rideau River for 48 hours would run through the heart of the City of Ottawa and reach one of Gatineau’s drinking water sources,” says Abdelkader. “Similarly, and this does depend on a variety of factors, a spill in the Mississippi would affect Gatineau and Ottawa drinking water sources after about 60 hours.”

The report reviews case studies of significant spills in North America and finds that the response time to shut off valves is on average 16 hours. Notably, it took 14 hours for Husky Energy to react to the recent North Saskatchewan spill. The trouble the company had controlling and recovering the 250,000 litres of spilled heavy oil resulted in closures of drinking water intakes and the oil flowing over 500 kilometres downstream.

The report also points to the Kalamazoo River spill as an example of how expensive clean-up can be. It took over five years and cost Enbridge over $1 billion (USD) to clean up the 2010 spill and there is still some traces of oil found in the sediments.

“It’s time for the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau to take definitive action to oppose the Energy East pipeline,” says Graham Saul, Executive Director of Ecology Ottawa. “The risk is far too great and it directly threatens the Rideau Canal, which is a World Heritage site, as well as the Ottawa River, which was recently designated as a Canadian Heritage River by Minister McKenna.”

“The Energy East pipeline runs straight through the Baxter ecological conservation area,” says Daniel Cayley-Daoust, Energy and Climate Campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “A spill in that wetland could cause irreparable damage to the ecosystem. Energy East is all risk and no reward.”

Savaria Experts-Conseils Inc. is an engineering consulting firm specializing in site characterization and remediation as well as in the implementation of environmental conservation and protection measures.

You can download a copy of the report here.


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