Hamilton councillors want more info on Enbridge pipeline reversal

Hamilton city council is looking for more input and information about the controversial reversal of Enbridge's Line 9 Pipeline oil flow.
The red dotted line represents the Enbridge pipeline flowing between Safari Road and Concession 6 West in Flamborough. (Courtesy Hamilton Conservation Authority)

Hamilton city council is looking for more input and information when it comes to the controversial reversal of Enbridge's Line 9 Pipeline oil flow.

Enbridge has already received approval to reverse the flow of Line 9A. It has applied to the National Energy Board (NEB) in a bid to reverse the flow of 9B. A hearing on the issue is scheduled for the week of Aug. 26.

On Wednesday, councillors passed a motion drafted by Coun. Brian McHattie to find some clarity on the reversal and apply to the NEB to participate at the hearing on the project. Council has until April 11 to say whether or not it plans to intervene in the hearing or not, and it will be, McHattie says.

"What's different this time is they're planning on having higher flows going through the pipe," McHattie said.

Opponents worry the flow reversal could rupture a pipe and cause a spill in an environmentally sensitive area such as the Beverly Swamp in the headwaters of Spencer Creek, Hamilton's largest watershed.

McHattie's motion says city staff will be authorized to:

  • Submit comment to the NEB regarding the commercial impact, safety, and environmental impact of the proposed reversal
  • Continue to review Enbridge's application for the project
  • Liaise with other municipalities and conservation authorities to present "common issues of concern" to the NEB
  • Provide assistance as required by the city solicitor and the general manager of planning and economic development in review of the project application
  • Suggest that Enbridge implement shutoff valves in provincially significant wetlands in the Hamilton area, like the Beverly Swamp
  • Report back to council with the status of the city's issues and if those issues were adressed at the NEB hearing

Deputy Fire Chief  David Cunliffe also presented at council, and says Hamilton firefighters need additional training as to how to deal with "emergencies" regarding a pipeline spill or accident.

"The fire department has not had the level of communication with Enbrige we will need," Cunliffe said, but added that all indications show that the company will be "very willing" to start those discussions.

The Calgary-based energy giant has had to deal with spills in the past. On Friday, U.S. Authorities ordered Enbridge to do more to clean up a big oil spill that happened in southwest Michigan more than two-and-a-half years ago. About three million litres of oil leaked from an Enbridge pipeline that ruptured in July 2010 near Kalamazoo.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it is still finding oil in parts of the Kalamazoo River and is ordering Enbridge to do more dredging to remove submerged oil.

Enbridge has also said it discovered contaminated soil in two spots along the pipeline west of Fort Simpson, N.W.T., last month. The pipeline company said the leaks were discovered because of a new program it's using that allows workers to look for small amounts of oil.

The company is set to spend about $160 million on "integrity digs" on Line 9, which cuts through Flamborough as it runs from Sarnia to Montreal. The digs will search for flaws that could cause pipe damage in the next few years, and the company will share the results, according to spokesperson Ken Hall.

With files from Samantha Craggs and The Canadian Press