REPORTING · 26th April 2012
A draft letter to the Joint Review Panel asking the questions posed by Councillor Phil Germuth from an earlier Council Meeting came forward at the City Council Committee of the Whole Meeting on Monday, April 23rd.
Councillor Mario Feldhoff made a motion to send the letter, but had a few changes he wished to make. The purpose of word-smithing the letter was to ensure all the Councillors felt comfortable with the wording. The Council does wish to appear neutral on the Enbridge topic.
The letter contains a statement saying Council does not wish to see Kitimat’s drinking water become contaminated by an oil spill and are concerned about what could happen if oil got into the communities drinking water.
Feldhoff had a few amendments, the first concerned grammar and it was accepted as a friendly amendment which did not require voting. His next few changes concerned possibility.
“The Kitimat River is the community’s sole source of potable water and as such, any contamination of this resource would be detrimental to the community.”
The first of these changes was to change the word “would,” underlined above, to “could.” Mayor Joanne Monaghan stated her agreement.
“It’s a subtle, subtle change,” said Feldhoff. “We never did get an engineering report in terms of the impact a spill would have on the filtration system, it’s unclear. It very well could be a problem and it’s a very subtle change in the request.”
The motion was called and carried.
The next change was to the following paragraph.
“If contaminated water were to invade our water distribution system, it could take years to clean the contaminants from the distribution system keeping the water supply to the community shut off.”
He wanted to add the words “via our Filtration Gallery” after water distribution system. Councillor Rob Goffinet expressed it was better to be general here because there could be more ways for contaminants to get into the water table which they had not thought of.
“When you specify, via one source, you’re, to me, needlessly refining down what a lawyer might want to see later on, in case there is an invasion of the water distribution system,” said Goffinet.
Feldhoff said there was one intake point where water gets pumped out of the river. There, it gets chlorinated right away and goes into the water tanks before going to the town. He meant to add clarity to it.
Germuth stated there was more then one single intake, there are different pump houses. He expressed it was better to keep it broad. Councillor Edwin Empinado stated it was better to have a general term. He asked a question of Engineering concerning how many pump houses there were and was told there were multiple intakes, the intakes as a whole were referred to as the ‘Filtration Gallery.’
The motion was called and defeated.
Feldhoff’s next change was to change one of the phrases in the same paragraph by adding the word ‘possibly’ to: “It could possibly take years to clean the contaminants…”
Germuth expressed he felt the word ‘could’ already covered the grounds of ‘possibly.’ Goffinet agreed as he felt ‘could’ fit in both the first paragraph and the second paragraph but adding ‘possibly’ would create more wiggle room then he was comfortable with, a double maybe.
Monaghan interrupted his train of thought suggesting the word ‘may’, as in: “It may take years…”
Feldhoff expressed the councillors did not have the time to reflect on a report from their staff which had been asked for. He was uncertain what affect a spill would have on the intakes as it was.
“We’re basically sounding the alarms and it’s appropriate that we get our concerns on the table,” said Feldhoff.
Germuth stated there was time sensibility on this, as the Enbridge issue has been around for years now and no one from Council has asked about the effect of contamination getting into the city’s water supply in the case of a spill.
“We want to change a word thinking we want administration to find these things out. We don’t know and we don’t have time,” said Germuth.
Scott agreed with changing the statement to ‘may’ in an attempt to solve it. Feldhoff agreed it would be the cleanest way of doing it. This first motion was negated, being tied. A second motion to replace ‘could’ with ‘may’ was put onto the table by Scott.
Goffinet disagreed with ‘may’ as well. He stated they debated ‘could’ before and were now getting rid of it for different reasons. He felt ‘may’ was softer then ‘could’ and suggested leaving ‘could’ here in the letter because ‘may’ was too soft for receiving a definition of risk.
The question was called and was negative. This change would not happen.
This led to Council discussing the purpose of the questions. Germuth wanted to know if there would be a follow up to this document and if the Joint Review Panel would look at it and wonder if these were questions. There were no questions on the document, just statements.
Municipal Manager Ron Poole stated there were two items passed by Council, a letter to the Joint Review Panel and questions for Enbridge.
Scott stated she was certain the Joint Review Panel would not be able to answer the questions anyway. They were writing the Panel to let them know of the concerns and Enbridge would be writing them back. If they did not like the response, they could write the panel again.
Feldhoff had one more change in one last paragraph: “It is important that we all understand what the effect of a spill would have on our community.”
Once again, he wanted to change the ‘would’ to ‘could.’ It was called and carried.
“The reason we are spending so much time debating is because the importance of word-smithing. We have to be sure that we are conveying what we want to say but using the proper wording structure of it. I think this letter reflects that now,” said Scott.
The letter was called and carried and Council moved on to further questions to ask representatives of Enbridge during a meeting the next day.