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REPORTING · 24th November 2011
Walter McFarlane
Dave Shannon of Douglas Channel Watch got up to present to Council concerning Enbridge at the regular meeting on Monday, November 7th. He expressed, he has been studying the project for a few weeks now. His presentation was called “Oil Spill Response.”

“There are a few things, after reviewing the detailed information which caused me a bit of worry, I’m going to go over it with you today,” said Shannon.

He put the ocean first and the river second. Shannon explained there is a problem with using booms as outlined in the Enbridge proposal.

“Booms don’t work very well in ocean currents greater then one knot,” said Shannon. The Major concern is high current and at speeds greater then one knot, their performance varies from fair to poor. One knot or more and your in pretty rough shape trying to corral the oil.”

He referenced the Enbridge Manual which talks about the potential for high current water course booms. However, Shannon, pointed out these booms do not exist yet.

Shannon pointed out, in the Douglas Channel, ocean current speeds exceed one knot every day due to tide changes. The booms which exist would not be able to capture the oil spills.

He moved on to the type of oil being transported, Diluted Bitumen. At room temperature, it is a hockey puck so it requires distillate to make it flow in the pipe. He expressed this diluted bitumen contains 30% natural gas condensate and 70% Bitumen. When it’s put together, its density is lighter then water so it floats.

However, its density changes with time. After 20 hours, the Bitumen achieves the density of fresh water. At 30 hours, it reaches the density of sea water. He expressed the oil will have flattened out over a big distance at 30 hours. However, this does not take into account variables. He expressed a spill in the Douglas Channel should be responded two between 6-60 hours.

Shannon asked a few questions which would affect the response. What is the weather as condensate evaporates faster then the bitumen? Is the area accessible? What is the salinity of the sea water? He pointed out the salinity affects the buoyancy of the Bitumen and the parts of the Douglas Channel have differing amounts of salinity. What is the amount of sediments in the water? Sediments in the water could cause the oil to sink faster.

“Longer response times would result in the oil being over washed with water, would no longer be visible to the responders because it’s juts below the surface. Sinking, it would no longer be accessible to booms and skimmers,” said Shannon. “Skimmers are affected by high sea conditions. […] There is a certain wave height were skimmers don’t work well at all either so your kind of hoped either way.”

Bacteria is another option to take care of the oil spill. It worked well in gulf of Mexico. The bacteria there was feeding off the oil there for years. However, the Douglas Channel is a less oil seeped area so there could be no encouraging local bacteria to eat it.

Bitumen lasts longer then other oils, it is a tarry substance. Bacteria was used to try and contain the Valdez spill but they were unsuccessful as the beaches are still contaminated with oil.

Shannon moved on to oil spills in the river. He showed a map of the proposed pipeline route from the east from Mount Nimbus to Kitimat. He showed how the pipeline gets close to the river. It showed where the shutoff valves are. He also pointed out where Enbridge has posted estimates of the amount barrels of oil, should a rupture occur. The first one on the map was 14,000. The next couple were estimated at 13,000 Barrels.

He also pointed out the contour lines show steep slopes to very shallow slopes. The route is along rockslide areas which carve deep ravens into the landscape.

Shannon showed another map with the booming locations. Hunter Creek, a logging road campsite, the Kitimat river bridge. The logging road was difficult to hike along and he could not see how a boom could get to the first two areas in time to do anything.

The BC government made an information request to the Northern Gateway Pipelines and there was a sentence in the request which caught the eye of Shannon.

“The proponent has identified that a remote leak detection system that is capable of plus or minus 5% alarm. The BC Government has said, ‘Hey, wait a minute. At 500,000 barrels a day, 5% equals 25,000 barrels a day.’ In other words, a slow leak is far more deadly then a full blown rupture and this could go on, undetected for a long time until somebody local notices there is oil in the river. The province goes out to ask some very appointed questions of Enbridge,” said Shannon.

He pointed out in Kalamazoo, it was locals who pointed out the oil on the river. “What would alert the company to a leak. This was a recent question given to John Caruthers at the Enbridge Forum in Kitimat. He answered the question, and this is John Caruthers words: ‘We have pressure drops, volume, mass balance and observations and monitoring of people living on the right of way,’ said Shannon. Now my question of John is how many people live between Cablecar and Mount Hope so good luck with that?”

Shannon added a few more concerns from the Kalamazoo. The people dealing with it now are dragging chains along the bottom of the river, blasting it with high pressure stingers and roto-tillers. A year after the spill, they tell people to not eat the fish, not to swim in the river and do not touch the river. He asked if this was a good idea for Kitimat.

Councillor Corrine Scott asked if Shannon had registered as an intervener. He replied yes. He issued a request, received some answers back. He is learning about how to make motions and present evidence. Scott asked if he going to bring the road conditions forward. He replied he is going to raise it as an issue and other people might do the same.

Councillor Randy Halyk brought up the concerns in Kalamazoo. He said as a fisherman, it would seem roto-tilling would destroy the riverbed so there would be no way for the fish to survive. While they can not eat the fish now, in a year, there might not be any fish left in the river. He wanted to know if this had been questioned. Shannon said the effect of the Exxon Valdez was to lose their fish for 20 years.

Councillor Rob Goffinet asked if Shannon was going to look into the optimum wave height for booms and skimmers. Goffinet expressed it was minimal for effective booming and skimming of oil. Goffinet pointed out the Channel is choppy and a glassy appearance of the channel is rare. Shannon replied the information has been provided and the answer would be there are few opportunities where a skimmer would work out there.
Just say no
Comment by Linda Halyk on 25th November 2011
It would have to be maintained daily with plows etc. If we got three feet in a couple of days here can you imagine how much is up the mountain. Plus it is in slide territory and they also want to drill through a mountain for the pipe. The best for all is that it doesn't get built. Refine it in alberta a train it or truck it anything but the pipeline. I don't believe it is coming. I think for once us meek mild Canadians need to take a stance and JUST NO.
If they can build a pipe, they can build a road.
Comment by Daniel Carter on 24th November 2011
I am not keen on the idea a pipeline will be built near the Kitimat river and yes, there are many kilometers of non inhabited area along that route. Enbridge can afford to build the pipeline, then they can afford to, and should have to build a maintained access road adjacent to it where there can be spotters patrolling it on a daily basis. If this pipeline is coming here, which it likely is, then we have to start throwing ideas like this at them for the sake of spill prevention or minimize a spill. Eyes are better than electronic sensors. My 2 bits.
Excellent Presentation.....
Comment by Larry on 24th November 2011
I just hope the residents of Kitimat and area take the time to read it.