Town hall highlights concerns over Energy East pipeline
Published Thursday, February 25, 2016 11:28PM CST Last Updated Friday, February 26, 2016 7:04AM CST
Concerns over the Energy East pipeline were highlighted Thursday night at a town hall meeting in St. Boniface.
The proposed project will carry more than a million barrels of crude from western to eastern Canada.
An environmental group warns the pipeline would threaten Winnipeg's water supply.
A crowd of about 25 people gathered in St. Boniface to hear the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition’s concerns with the pipeline – a pipeline which crosses underneath several rivers in Manitoba.
Winnipegger Sylvie Hebert worries about safety and the environment.
"There's concerns about contaminating our water (and) explosions,” said Hebert. “There's so many things that I think people just don't realize."
TransCanada’s proposed Energy East project would see 1.1 million barrels of oil moved through existing natural gas pipelines from Alberta and Saskatchewan to refineries on the east coast.
The pipeline also crosses and runs alongside Winnipeg's aqueduct.
Coalition spokesperson Alex Paterson said if the project goes ahead, it will put the city's water supply at risk of contamination.
"Not only from spills and ruptures but also incidental, small leaks which have proven to already exist in the pipeline they want to convert from natural gas to oil," said Paterson.
Retired biophysicist Dennis LeNeveu said “one small crack” in the aqueduct and a "pinhole leak" in the pipeline would poison Winnipeg's drinking water.
"This is not an ‘if,’” said LeNeveu. “This will happen and if that water is contaminated from the pipeline it will enter the aqueduct."
TransCanada said any small leaks that have occurred in its pipelines have happened above-ground inside pump stations.
When it comes to Energy East, company spokesperson Tim Duboyce said safety monitoring, integrity testing and an emergency response plan will prevent environmental disaster.
"It's very important to have those plans in place,” said Duboyce. “Even though it's extremely unlikely that we would experience any kind of an incident related to the integrity of the pipe itself."
That's not good enough for the coalition – the group is calling for the pipeline to be re-routed or have the project stopped completely. On Monday, pipeline opponents will make a presentation to Standing Policy Committee on Water Waste, Environment, and River Bank.
They'll argue the proposed pipeline poses a serious risk to the city's drinking water supply.
"The presentation will inform City councillors of how leaks from the proposed pipeline could occur and therefore benzene, a cancer causing chemical, could contaminate the drinking water supply of Winnipeg and shutdown the aqueduct," said a news release from the coalition.
The National Energy Board is currently reviewing TransCanada's application for the Energy East project.
The company hopes to get federal approval in 2018 and begin construction the same year.