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July 27,2007 Tri City News

By Lara Gerrits The Tri-City News

The effects of a ruptured oil pipeline in Burnaby this week so far have hit local commuters more than the waterfront.

Barnet Highway opened for the first time yesterday since a ruptured oil pipeline near Inlet and Ridge drives in Burnaby Tuesday left homes blanketed in black and environmental crews scrambling to contain the eco-mess flowing into Burrard Inlet.

Commuters heading to or from Hastings Street through Port Moody were forced to redirect over Burnaby Mountain, causing increased congestion on Clarke and North roads and their feeder routes.

The geyser of oil launched shortly after noon Tuesday when a contractor doing construction in the area struck a pipeline. The volume of oil released is not yet known but some of it flowed into storm sewers and, thus, into the nearby inlet.

Within three hours of the rupture, oil was visible on the shoreline at the eastern edge of Barnet Marine Park, about 1.5 km from where the crude likely entered the water, and nearing Burnaby’s border with PoMo.

But Chris LaRock, an emergency response officer with Environment Canada, said oil dispersion models aren’t forecasting the spill to enter the Port Moody arm of the inlet.

Although a light “sheen of rainbow-colour” has been spotted near Port Moody waters, “none of our dispersion models show it going to where the sensitive and inter-tidal marshes [of Port Moody] are,” he said. “Everybody got on this really fast.”

But because some wildlife affected by the spill are mobile, people visiting nearby park areas such as Belcarra and Rocky Point, or Reed Point Marina, may notice distressed birds.

“Anybody who’s out should be watchful,” said local biologist Ruth Foster, noting signs of stress in birds include constant preening or an inability to fly.

While on a boat tour of the Inlet Wednesday with Environment Canada officials, Foster said she saw an oiled gull vomiting.

“I think we’re going to see more problems,” Foster said, explaining how blobs of oil have sunk outside of the containment booms.

“They’re really heavy, greasy black blobs of oil and we’re seeing those closer to Port Moody than the day before,” she said. “It’s not all contained by any stretch of the imagination.”

As of noon Wednesday, Focus Wildlife — the firm hired to clean and rehabilitate animals affected by the spill — had rescued five birds from the affected area. An Environment Canada official snapped photos of several birds with oil on their bodies during his tour of the inlet with Foster, who noted it takes only a dime-size amount to kill one.

“There are four species of salmon in the inlet and all the mussels and barnacles are likely to be affected and killed by this,” she said. “This is a tremendously rich environment and a very sensitive habitat.”

Boaters docking at Rocky Point Park Wednesday said they hadn’t seen oil in Port Moody waters.

Meanwhile, researchers with UBC’s Marine Mammal Research Unit continued work at a sea pen off Reed Point Thursday. Sea lions there remained in the water throughout the spill scare as staff said the oil didn’t affect water quality there.

Still, all eyes are on the water for the next few months. Local environmental groups will be monitoring effects, as will Environment Canada and even the city of Port Moody.

“What I have done is determined exactly what the possible implications would be if the oil was ever to make it to Port Moody,” said Rick Saunier, PoMo’s environmental technician.

But because the spill happened 3.5 nautical miles from the pier at Rocky Point Park, he said the chances of the contamination spreading east is slim.

“But at the same time, we have to be prepared for anything,” he said.

• To report a distressed bird, note the time and location you saw it and call the federal Canadian Wildlife Service at 1-800-668-6767.


Many municipalities have an underground system of oil pipelines few know about.

For instance, Kinder Morgan Canada operates a 1,150 km pipeline known as the Trans Mountain Pipeline System. It was a portion of this system that erupted Tuesday.

The pipes, operating since 1953, ship crude and refined petroleum from Edmonton to Burnaby. It takes approximately 10 to 14 days for the oil to arrive.

Coquitlam soil hosts some 17 km of this system. It begins from underneath the Fraser River, just downstream from the Port Mann bridge, and proceeds north across Highway 1 and jogs east and up towards Poirier Street. From there, it travels north-west to Cottonwood Avenue until it meets the Burnaby boundary.

Port Moody has an oil transmission line running through the west side of the city, up through Glenayre and underneath Burrard Inlet to the Imperial Oil terminal on Ioco Road.

It’s the responsibility of each pipeline operator to maintain the systems, although strict regulations are enforced by the National Energy Board, said spokesperson Andrew Cameron. (The NEB is the lead agency with respect to the oil clean-up).

“Any deregulated companies are required to have an integrity management plan which the NEB reviews and audits,” he said. “The NEB also reviews and assesses companies with emergency response programs and the NEB observes or participates in responsive exercises with the companies it regulates.”

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