A major spill last Saturday has renewed Canadians’ worries about the Trans Mountain pipeline. Up to 50,000 gallons of crude oil flooded Sumas First Nation’s land in Abbotsford, British Columbia, spilling over an aquifer that supplies the community’s drinking water.
“We cannot continue to have our land desecrated by oil spills,” Sumas First Nation Chief Dalton Silver said in a statement issued by the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC). This is the fourth spill on his community’s land in 15 years.
The cause is still under investigation, but may be connected with a fitting on a piece of pipe attached to the main line, Trans Mountain said in a statement. “Clean-up is well underway with trucks and crews working around the clock,” the company said. “The free-standing oil has been recovered and is being transported to an approved facility for disposal. The site has permanent groundwater monitoring in place and air monitoring continues. Monitoring has not identified any risk to the public or community.”
While the company claimed to be working with Indigenous communities on cleanup, Silver told CityNews 1130 that Trans Mountain had not updated him about restarting the pipeline’s operation. “That they’re up and running Sunday afternoon, my sister just read that to me off her phone. That was the first I heard of it, so there you go with the openness and transparency,” Silver said. “I would really rather hear it from those at the incident command post.”
Environmentalists and many First Nations communities oppose plans to triple the capacity of the pipeline, which carries oil from Alberta to the Pacific coast. They worry about threats to Indigenous sovereignty and clean water supplies. Increased tanker traffic could also harm already endangered orcas.
“We conducted our own assessment of Trans Mountain using leading science and Tsleil-Waututh’s Indigenous law that concluded that oil spills are inevitable, can’t be fully cleaned up, and have devastating effects,” Chief Leah George-Wilson of Tsleil-Waututh Nation said in the UBCIC statement. “This most recent spill is another reminder that the risk is too great to accept. The Trans Mountain pipeline has already spilled more than 80 times since it began operating. This is why we continue to fight the Trans Mountain Expansion in the courts.”
Image via Jim Black