The existing route of the Trans Mountain pipeline in Chilliwack runs through Watson elementary’s schoolyard and residential backyards. The company wants to put the expansion in the same right-of-way, while the NEB has approved a route in the BC Hydro corridor. (Paul Henderson/ Progress file)

Pipeline company questioned about Fraser Valley aquifer protection at NEB hearing

‘We want to be sure that this is safe’ lawyer for City of Chilliwack tells Trans Mountain brass

The protection of Chilliwack’s drinking water was the main subject of questioning of Kinder Morgan Canada officials on day two of the National Energy Board (NEB) hearing into the company’s pipeline route realignment application.

Legal counsel for the City of Chilliwack grilled the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project’s (TMEP) director and a hydrogeologist consultant about whether or not the company had done scientific studies on the impacts on the city’s aquifer of three alternate routes through a 1.8-kilometre stretch of Sardis.

“Would you agree that you’ve carried out no scientific studies to compare the impacts of the three routes on the aquifer?”asked the city’s legal counsel Olga Rivkin.

Hydrogeologist Steve Foley responded that the company relied on decades of studies on the Sardis-Vedder aquifer, one of the most studied in the lower Fraser Valley.

“The wealth of information that was made available to us through public domain and forthcoming are provided by the City of Chilliwack, supported our entire evaluation of the routings,” Foley responded.

That was not good enough for Rivkin who pursued Foley and TMEP director Greg Toth to answer why they did not conduct their own study on the impacts on the aquifer of the different possible routes.

“Could you please answer my question? Have you done comparative scientific study of the alignments?”

“I guess your reference to scientific is probably different than mine,” Foley responded, suggesting their analysis of previous studies done was scientific in itself.

“Our strength and our ability is to be able to weave the ideas over three decades of work,” he said.

The questioning Tuesday by the City of Chilliwack follows questions Monday from the S’ólh Téméxw Stewardship Alliance (STSA) representing local Sto:lo First Nations, and it preceded questions from Ian Stephen from the WaterWealth Project.

• READ MORE: Pipeline routing through Chilliwack subject of NEB hearing Monday

The hearing ordered by the NEB is looking into Trans Mountain’s request to put its new oil pipeline in the existing right-of-way over the stretch in question, which runs in the Watson elementary schoolyard and the backyards of approximately two dozen homes on Roseberry and Montcalm roads.

The route approved by the NEB over this short stretch through the city is in the BC Hydro corridor just to the north of Roseberrry.

The company asked for the change to the existing route because BC Hydro said the pipeline cannot run in between the hydro towers, so it would have to run to the south, which would be adjacent to different residential backyards on the north side of Roseberry.

• READ MORE: Chilliwack resident worried pipeline could be in her backyard

The City of Chilliwack, and Stephen with WaterWealth, prefer the BC Hydro route approved by the NEB because it is further from the aquifer and the city’s wells.

Trans Mountain argues that both routes are outside the aquifer area anyway, and in the unlikely event of a leak, material would run to the north towards the Fraser River away from the aquifer.

“[If] both routes extend outside capture, that relative change in vulnerability is negligible,” Foley said.

“That’s a big ‘if,’” Rivkin responded, later pressing the issue finally getting Foley to agree in part to what she was suggesting: “Farther is better,” he said.

Rivkin further pushed Foley on what she said was an insufficient response to the city’s concerns about the impact on the aquifer with the pipeline realignment. She quoted the company’s own evidence that said the consultant’s report “was never intended as definitive.”

“So again, my point to you is that you’ve never provided to the city the detailed response to its concerns that you’ve acknowledged and to which detailed response is clearly promised,” she said.

Foley responded that the interrogation hinged on semantics as she used the word “detailed” and the company said “definitive.”

“I don’t think it’s semantical. I think it’s pretty clear that there has been no detailed response that is determinative and that assures the City that the re-route is safe,” Rivkin said. “That is really not brain science here. We want to be sure that this is safe.”

“You’ve just linked ‘definitive’ to ‘detailed,’ so we are talking semantics,” Foley responded.

Rivkin continued her questioning of the company Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday morning the hearing continued with NEB lawyers asking the company questions, which was scheduled to be followed by NEB questioning of the intervenors.

The entire week was booked for the hearing, but an NEB spokesperson said it was likely to wrap up Thursday with closing arguments from all parties.

A decision on the pipeline routing by the NEB will likely take a number of months.


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

National Energy Board chair Lyne Mercier speaks Monday at the start of a hearing into Trans Mountain pipeline routing realignment through Chilliwack. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

Just Posted

Tardi earns first victory in quest for third national title

A Langley-based junior curling team is in Prince Albert, Sask. for the Canadian championships.

VIDEO: New homes for old dogs

Langley event has high number of senior dogs up for adoption

VIDEO: Giants wrap southern swing with 6-4 win in Spokane

The Langley-based hockey team defeated the Chiefs Friday night.

Charges upgraded against mother of murdered Langley girl

Kerryann Lewis now faces first- rather than second-degree murder in the death of Aaliyah Rosa.

WATCH: Farm Country Brewing in Langley City expected to open in summer

Farm Country Brewing is currently under construction and is planned to open in summer 2019.

VIDEO: Students in MAGA hats mock Native American at Indigenous Peoples March

Diocese in Kentucky says it is investigating the matter, caught on video by onlookers

Want to avoid the speculation tax on your vacant home? Rent it out, Horgan says

Premier John Horgan and Sheila Malcolmson say speculation and vacancy tax addresses homelessness

CONSUMER REPORT: What to buy each month in 2019 to save money

Resolve to buy all of the things you want and need, but pay less money for them

UPDATE: B.C. woman and boy, 6, found safe, RCMP confirm

Roseanne Supernault says both she and her six-year-old nephew are fine and she has contacted police

PHOTOS: Women’s Marches take to the streets across B.C. and beyond

Women and allies marched worldwide protesting violence against women, calling for equality

Anxiety in Alaska as endless aftershocks rattle residents

Seismologists expect the temblors to continue for months, although the frequency has lessened

Women’s March returns across the U.S. amid shutdown and controversy

The original march in 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew hundreds of thousands of people

Federal Liberals announce former B.C. MLA as new candidate in byelection

Richard Lee will face off against federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh

No winning ticket in $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

No win in Friday night’s draw means the next Lotto Max draw will be approximately $17 million

Most Read