British Columbia’s Environment Minister Mary Polak and Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman issued the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline an environmental assessment certificate. Contained within the certificate are 37 conditions that include measures the Kinder Morgan has to take when an oil spill happens. (When not if because of the 87% chance of an oil spill over the next fifty years. Just based on Kinder Morgan’s past track record alone, an oil spill can be expected at least once every four years).
Christy Clark and the government are clearly aware of this high risk: One of the conditions the province has placed on Kinder Morgan is they must provide citizens with bottled water should drinking water become contaminated.
“In the event that a spill originating from the Project is confirmed to have contaminated drinking water … [Kinder Morgan] must provide one or more alternate source(s) of drinking water for all persons who use water for human or animal consumption from the contaminated water source for the period of time during which contamination exists.” (Table of Conditions for an Environmental Assessment Certificate, Condition 26)
With this condition, the province clearly acknowledges the very real oil spill threat that the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline poses to water in British Columbia. Not only would the proposed pipeline endanger some of our local sources of drinking water, but it would also threaten Burrard Inlet and the Fraser River in various locations.
The Abbotsford-Sumas aquifer, from which drinking water is extracted for Abbotsford, is one of these locations. According to the City of Abbotsford, both citizens and businesses in Abbotsford depend on an adequate, and uncontaminated supply of groundwater from this aquifer. The proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline would transport diluted bitumen directly over the aquifer, meaning an immediate threat to public health if a spill contaminated drinking water. The city also stresses that this aquifer is particularly susceptible to being polluted, as oil that is spilled elsewhere may contaminate the water source by mixing with rainfall.
The proposed pipeline also runs the risk of contaminating the Coldwater Valley watershed as it runs through the recharge zone that feeds the Coldwater aquifer, located near Merritt, BC. Chief Lee Spahan of the Coldwater Indian Band, whose community relies on the aquifer for drinking water and irrigation, stated at a recent Vancouver press conference that the aquifer could never be remediated to potable standards once contaminated by a pipeline spill or release. The Crown has acknowledged this risk.
“We would never be able to drink our water again,” Spahan said. How Kinder Morgan would meet condition 26 if it were to irreversibly destroy the Coldwater aquifer as a source of drinking water is anyone’s guess.
Get an overview of the facts about the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline and drinking water below: