Sumas First Nation chief says spill at B.C. Trans Mountain facility 4th ‘in the last 15 years’

Click to play video: 'Continuing concerns over Trans Mountain spill in Abbotsford'
Continuing concerns over Trans Mountain spill in Abbotsford
Despite the fact Trans Mountain says a spill from its pipeline in Abbotsford is cleaned up and hasn't caused any damage, environmentalists are concerned. Ted Chernecki reports. – Jun 15, 2020

Trans Mountain says oil is once again flowing through its pipeline following a spill Saturday near Abbotsford B.C.

An estimated 150-190 cubic metres (150,000 to 190,000 litres) of sweet crude oil spilled from its Sumas Pump station early Saturday and the pipeline was shut down.

An investigation is now underway but Trans Mountain says it appears a pipe fitting failed.

A local First Nation says this is the fourth spill at the facility in 15 years.

“The big threat is the cumulative effects,” Dalton Silver chief of Sumas First Nation told Global News.

“This is the fourth spill in the last 15 years. Three at the tank farm that is right above us… and then this one now at Sumas Station, which sits on what was once Sumas Lake.”

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He said when the spill happened on Saturday he could smell strong fumes in the air.

“The big threat that I’m concerned about is the aquifer,” Silver added.

“We have our own drinking system, our own water system. Our drinking water comes from what’s become known as the Abbotsford Sumas aquifer.”

In a statement to Canadian Press, the B.C. government said it does not appear the groundwater in the area is fouled.

Trans Mountain says the spill has now been fully contained.

“In terms of the actual oil spill itself, I’m not actually sure what definition of ‘containment’ they have but you could definitely still see oil on the ground when I was out there yesterday and that whole area, I’m told from Sumas First Nation is right at the edge of Sumas Lake, which was drained for colonization,” Peter McCartney, a campaigner for the Wilderness Committee told Global News.

“So the hydrology there is essentially a lake bed and it’s very easy for the contaminants that spilled out onto the ground there to end up in the ground water and the drinking water of the people who live nearby.”

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Click to play video: 'Estimated 150,000 litres of crude spills from TMX pipeline in Abbotsford, B.C.'
Estimated 150,000 litres of crude spills from TMX pipeline in Abbotsford, B.C.

“We think of these as one-time events, but when you think about the life of a pipeline and you add up all these spills into the marine ecosystem and land ecosystems … it’s really catastrophic for ecosystems,” McCartney added.

Cleanup at the site continues Monday.

“Everybody is really nervous about what this could mean for the aquifer, for the people of Abbotsford in their drinking water and the local ecosystems that rely on it,” McCartney said.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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