Heaven knows: the NEB doesn’t.

When a friend called from Calgary earlier this year to tell us she had been evacuated from her beautiful home on the Bow River, she complained about the water covering her front lawn. Torontonians could understand how she felt when they saw the Don River cover the southern reaches of the Don Valley Parkway when Toronto suffered heavy rains more recently. And this is only a small taste of the potential problems in Toronto if the National Energy Board (NEB) approves the reversal of Enbridge Pipeline 9B to carry bitumen slurry east through Toronto. What we must never see is the extent of destruction of Toronto’s urban environment that can be caused by a bitumen slurry spill from an old oil pipeline through the city.

Any major spill of Enbridge Pipeline 9B between Willowdale Avenue (east of Yonge Street) east to Victoria Park Avenue in Toronto, for example, will find its way to the Don River. Fouling the storm sewers in the area will be the least of the problems as the Don River will carry the slurry quickly to Toronto’s Inner Harbour. Any large amount of rain at the time will accelerate the travel process. Remember slurry floats—until the hydrocarbons in the slurry evaporate and the bitumen sinks.

The first major trap for the slurry will be the hard right turn of the river at the Keating Channel. The channel introduces the river to the colder waters of Lake Ontario. This will accelerate the sinking of the bitumen and, given a large enough spill, block the Keating Channel. If this happens, the Don River will quickly flow over its banks and the roads on both sides of the river.

This is just one scenario of what can happen with running bitumen slurry through an urban centre. Enbridge has had two years to clean up the Kalamazoo tributaries in Michigan and the work continues. Toronto could hardly have a major artery such as the Don Valley Parkway out of use for a day.

The point is that an urban environment creates an urgency that we have never seen before in pipeline incidents. And what everybody knows is that there can be no promises. There can be no fast enough response. There can be no remorse. Heaven is not on the side of Enbridge. A spill simply cannot be allowed to happen.

The only way we can guarantee anything is to say: No.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

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