Lake Ontario at Risk Due to a Canadian Pipeline

August 11, 2012

Exposed Enbridge pipeline in Rouge Park puts waterways at risk

Published on Friday August 03, 2012


Kaleigh Rogers Staff Reporter


For two and a half years, an Enbridge Inc. pipeline has sat exposed in the Rouge River in Toronto’s Rouge Park.

The river flows to Lake Ontario and is home to a rich ecosystem with vulnerable flora and fauna. If the pipe succumbed to damage or erosion — a possibility in its current state — the spill would be nothing short of a disaster, according to Adam Scott, of the legal organization Environmental Defence.

“If anything, even a small spill, were to happen, it’s quite likely that oil would get into the lake,” Scott said. “It’s a disaster waiting to happen. We should never have been put in this position.”

Scott made the discovery while mapping out the pipeline as part of Environmental Defence’s role in an Enbridge bid to repurpose the line to transport tar sands oil.

The pipe, which carries crude oil from Quebec City to a Sarnia refinery, was installed under the riverbed in 1975. In late 2009, Enbridge discovered the pipe was partially exposed due to natural erosion of the riverbank. In response, the company bolstered the pipe with a makeshift concrete barrier that Scott said isn’t good enough.

“Where it’s sitting now it could shift, bend or get struck by objects,” he said, noting ice and debris often run down the river in the spring. “That’s a very ineffective, Band-aid solution.”

Even Enbridge acknowledges it’s not a long-term solution. Spokesperson Todd Nogier said the barrier was always intended as a temporary fix, and the company is now working on a permanent barrier to protect the pipe and blend in with the landscape.

“The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority have been satisfied to date that the temporary solution posed no threat to people and the environment,” he said.

The revelation comes in the wake of an Enbridge pipeline break in rural Wisconsin last week that spilled 50,000 gallons of light crude — shortly after the company said it had made safety changes following a Michigan pipeline disaster in 2010 that spilled a whopping 800,000 gallons of heavy crude into waterways.

It also comes amid growing resistance to the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal to carry tar sands oil through British Columbia.

Pipeline expert Anthony Swift, of the Natural Resources Defense Council in the U.S., says it’s evidence Enbridge isn’t learning from its mistakes.

“Many of the mistakes Enbridge made that both caused and increased the severity of the Kalamazoo spill (in Michigan in 2010) were mistakes that Enbridge had made in previous spills and failed to learn from,” Swift said. “The spill in Wisconsin suggests there’s been little progress since.”

While Nogier said the new barrier should be complete within months, Scott said he’s more worried about the bigger picture.

“What I find really disturbing about the whole thing is I just stumbled upon this,” he said. “I’m really worried that this is just the tip of the iceberg.”


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