The Douglas Channel Watch says Enbridge’s own documents show that its oil spill cleanup plan for the Northern Gateway Pipeline includes setting fire to oil-coated grass in the Kitimat River estuary.
Spokesman Murray Minchin said that in volume 7A of its project proposal, Enbridge says it would burn wetlands, “to reduce hydrocarbon volume when other techniques are unsuitable or would cause more damage to an area.”
It also states setting fire to oil spills will be “used in areas where heavy equipment would cause environmental damage.”
Minchin said in volume 7B of its proposal, Enbridge admits there would be potential for a two million litre spill into the upper Kitimat River, which would be the largest oil spill into a Canadian river in history.
And Enbridge estimates it would take responders and their equipment up to four hours to reach the spill site, and that the diluted bitumen would reach the Kitimat River estuary during flood conditions in those same four hours.
Minchin said that when Douglas Channel Watch asked Enbridge directly if it would burn the Kitimat River estuary after a full bore rupture, the company replied, “If a controlled burn were appropriate in certain circumstances, the response team may recommend such an action.”
“It is nothing short of lunacy,” he said of the project.
“If Enbridge’s people think they can waltz through our valley and lay 70 kilometres of pipelines beside our river unopposed, they’re delusional. If they think there will be no opposition to the idea of supertankers carrying 300 million litres of bitumen trying to make three 90-degree turns to reach open water, they’re completely blinded by greed.”
Minchin said Enbridge had already said the Kitimat could be closed to fishing for at least four years after a major spill.
“Now we find out they intend to burn one of the BC coast’s largest estuaries in the case of a spill. Enbridge may be willing to sacrifice our river, or BC’s north coast, but we don’t intend to let them.”
The burn option also came under fire from the Kitimat Valley Naturalists.
“Estuaries are among the world’s most critical environments, helping sustain so many of the worlds organisms including millions of fish and birds and the countless others that depend on them,” said Walter Thorne.
“Burning the estuary sounds preposterous – even considering such options is unthinkable.”
Thorne said that since the 1950s the Kitimat River estuary had deteriorated, largely due to impacts by two industries.
“If a pipeline were to burst upstream or near the terminal, it’s highly probable that the estuary would be contaminated beyond rehabilitation – a toxic wasteland.”
The Douglas Channel Watch and Kitimat Valley Naturalists are both registered as intervenors in the Joint Review Panel process which is currently reviewing the proposed Northern Gateway project.