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Emergency response at Trans Mountain’s Burnaby tank farm could take 6 hours: Report

A aerial view of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain tank farm is pictured in Burnaby, B.C., on Tuesday, May 29, 2018.
A aerial view of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain tank farm is pictured in Burnaby, B.C., on Tuesday, May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS Jonathan Hayward

A newly surfaced report is once again raising concerns about safety and firefighting capacity at the Trans Mountain tank farm on Burnaby Mountain.

The report estimates Trans Mountain’s planned response time to a major event, such as a serious fire, at six hours.

The fire protection audit was commissioned by the National Energy Board (now the Canadian Energy Regulator, or CER) and produced by PLC Fire Safety Solutions, a company that specializes in assessing the firefighting capabilities of big industrial facilities, in 2016.

READ MORE: NDP candidate calls for release of safety report on B.C.’s Trans Mountain tank farm

Overall, it found that Trans Mountain’s plans were generally in compliance, but it raised questions about the time and manner in which the company’s own firefighting team could respond.

“Since there is currently no mutual aid agreement with the Burnaby Fire Department, initial response will be limited and response time could be six hours,” concludes the report.

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In a statement, the CER said that response time at the site has since been shortened to four hours.

It added that the PLC report only formed one part of the audit of the Trans Mountain site, which also looked at technical expertise, historical data and onsite inspections.

“The CER’s audit directs the company to shorten its response time. The audit found that Trans Mountain’s planned emergency response times for a tank fire and boil over event were not stringent enough,” said the regulator.

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“In addition, the company has been directed to complete unannounced safety exercises at the Burnaby and Edmonton terminal.”

Pipeline politics in Burnaby election riding
Pipeline politics in Burnaby election riding

But it’s already got activists and some Burnaby residents upset.

“The headline is that there’s no coordination between the fire safety plan at the tank farm, the people at the tank farm responsible for putting out fires, and the Burnaby Fire Department,” said Karl Perrin, a spokesperson for the group Burnaby Residents Against Kinder Morgan Expansion (BROKE).

READ MORE: Burnaby fire crews contain storage shed fire near Kinder Morgan tank facility

The report was actually commissioned several years ago, but was not made public until Svend Robinson, the NDP federal election candidate for Burnaby North-Seymour, filed a freedom of information request.

Robinson has been an outspoken critic of the project and said the document confirms his fears about safety.

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“The most important concern on this document, which Kinder Morgan, and now Trans Mountain Pipeline have been stonewalling and trying to prevent the public from having access to, is that the existing tank farm has very serious threats to the health and safety of people in this community,” he said.

“The expansion is completely unacceptable.”

READ MORE: Burnaby mayor says city’s pipeline concerns have been ignored, talked over

Burnaby Mountain is currently home to a dozen oil tanks fed by the Trans Mountain Pipeline, and with the planned expansion, would see 14 more added.

Trans Mountain declined an on-camera interview, but issued a statement saying the safety and well-being of the community were its top priority.

“At our terminals, we are ready to respond immediately with people and equipment. Trans Mountain has mutual aid agreements in place with other industrial operators in the areas where we operate, and contracts with response companies to provide fire responders to the terminals,” it said.

“Trans Mountain welcomes the opportunity to work with the City of Burnaby to discuss fire preparedness at the terminal.”

Trans Mountain went on to note that the CER had not adopted the report in full, because it had been based on an incorrect application and interpretation of the Onshore Pipeline Regulations.

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“Trans Mountain addressed the potential deficiencies identified by the PLC report and no new areas of non-compliance have been identified,” said the company.

At the time the report was released, Trans Mountain also refuted the findings in the report’s fire audit.

Read the full report: