A group concerned about an oil pipeline running next to Winnipeg’s water supply says the city needs to do a better job studying the risk.
The proposed Energy East pipeline would pump more than a million barrels of oil per day from Alberta to the East Coast.
In Manitoba, TransCanada would pump oil through a repurposed natural gas line that runs parallel to and crosses under the aqueduct that carries Winnipeg’s drinking water in from Shoal Lake.
The city is has earmarked $1 million to study the risk of contamination – in particular where the lines cross.
The Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition’s Alex Paterson says the city needs to shift more focus to other spots along the line.
“We are absolutely certain that the risk of small leaks along almost the entirety of the length where the aqueduct and the pipeline are beside each other have a better statistical chance of being the thing that contaminates the aqueduct,” he said.
The Coalition would like the pipeline to be re-routed away from the aqueduct.
Geoff Patton of the city’s water and waste department says while they are focusing on a few areas of particular concern, they will look at all possible risks to Winnipeg’s drinking water.
“We’re concerned about any incident with the Energy East pipeline that could affect the flow of the aqueduct,” he said.
The coalition encouraged the city to finish its study sooner than later, so it could be put before the National Energy Board. The Board will decide whether or not the pipeline can be built.
“TransCanada’s submission to the National Energy board doesn’t bring up this issue at all. Obviously our group is against the pipeline. Obvious TransCanada is for the pipeline… What we really want from the city is for them to provide that independent information that looks at TransCanada’s submission, looks at ours, and tries to find the truth for citizens,” Paterson said.
For their part, TransCanada says it’s in their best interests too to make sure the environment is protected.
“It’s totally natural that people are concerned about pipeline safety, the protection of the environment and their communities. We’re concerned about that too,” explains Energy East spokesperson Tim Duboyce. “We’re the first to put up our hands and say the last thing we want to have is an incident on a pipeline. We invest a lot of money and effort to make our pipelines operate safely. We’re being very through in the process.”
The city has applied for standing at the Board’s hearings, the dates of which have not been determined.
It says it’s having trouble moving forward with that risk assessment because many outside consultants it wants to hire are already involved with the pipeline in another capacity.
It hopes to have the study done by the end of the year.