Indigenous and environmental groups want independent investigation into light crude spill

The pipeline moves about 300,000 barrels of crude a day.

Indigenous leaders say they’re worried about the safety of the Trans Mountain (TMX) pipeline after a spill in southern B.C.

“The federal government investigating itself is clearly not an option,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, in a release.

Chiefs joined with environmental groups Tuesday in calling for an independent investigation after about 150,000 litres of light crude spilled from a pumping facility in Abbotsford.

TMX, a Crown-owned company, said the 67-year-old pipeline was shut down early Saturday when an alarm was triggered at the Sumas pump station.

It said it was still looking into what happened but the oil had been contained, recovered and slated for disposal – and the pipeline restarted Sunday.

A statement posted late Sunday by the B.C. Environment Ministry said TMX was co-ordinating the response at the site, along with environmental and emergency contractors.

The ministry said there was no reported impact to groundwater, but monitoring continued.

Sumas First Nation 

Sumas First Nation Chief Dalton Silver said Saturday’s spill marked the fourth time in 15 years the pipeline has spilled oil on their land.

He said in a statement that it happened just south of a cultural and burial ground of great significance to his people.

“Victims of a 1782 smallpox epidemic are buried around Lightning Rock, which sits on the slopes of Sumas Mountain,” Silver said in the release.

“Without an independent, transparent and scientific investigation into the safety of this old pipeline, we have no confidence in Trans Mountain’s ability to build the new pipeline without inflicting more damage to our territory.”

The pipeline moves about 300,000 barrels of crude a day along an 1,100-km route between Alberta and B.C.’s waterfront terminal near Vancouver.

The federal government approved expansion of the TMX pipeline last June that will triple its capacity.

“This is another heartbreaking reminder that pipeline spills are inevitable,” Eugene Kung, staff lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law, added in the release.

“Kinder Morgan’s reputation for skimping on maintenance, in pursuit of profit, was well known when Canada overpaid for the aging pipeline. The Trans Mountain expansion needs the capacity of the original pipeline to maintain the illusion of commercial viability. That illusion evaporates with every oil spill.”

The latest oil spill occurred above the Abbotsford Sumas aquifer where the release noted there are 19 public and city drinking water wells and farm wells. It is also close to the Sumas River habitat for five species of salmon.

So far, TMX has blamed a faulty fitting on a 2.5-centimetre piece of pipe.

Indigenous leaders and groups said in the release they’d like a moratorium on construction for the new pipeline.

With files by The Canadian Press