Hamilton officials are worried about the proposed reversal of the flow of Enbridge's Line 9 pipeline, and have written a letter of concern to the National Energy Board.
They're not alone. Officials in Kingston, Toronto and Mississauga are also concerned that the proposed reversal of the pipeline's flow may threaten the integrity of the pipeline itself.
The 38-year-old Enbridge pipeline has been carrying oil west from Montreal. Enbridge is proposing to reverse the flow to take western oil east. It says this will make Canada less reliant on foreign oil.
Guy Paparella, director of the planning and economic development department at the City of Hamilton, says the city is also concerned about Enbridge's response if the pipeline burst.
In Michigan in 2010, a pipeline of a similar age burst and spilled more than 20,000 barrels of crude oil into local rivers and waterways.
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"We want to make sure that the emergency response and protections are put in place to make sure that the public is protected," said Paparella. "We've got a pretty consistent position from a municipal standpoint, and we're all submitting letters to that effect to the National Energy Board."
Pipeline runs through 'environmentally sensitive areas'
Paparella added that the pipeline runs through many environmentally sensitive areas in the rural part of the community, and in the event of a rupture, clean up and containment would be crucial to protecting the environment and local residents.
Graham White, a media representative for Enbridge, said the company has been making an effort to be clear and informative with municipalities and other stakeholders in the reversal proposal. White said the company has planned to do extensive integrity digs in order to make sure the pipeline is in good condition.
"Anything that causes us concern, or may cause concern far down the road, we will go to this location, we'll dig down to the line, we expose the line and do a number of other tests, just to ensure that there is no cause for concern," said White. "And if there is, we would do any repairs or maintenance that is necessary."
'When you look at the worst case scenario — and certainly, the Marshall spill in Michigan in 2010 qualifies for that — we've made tremendous improvements and progress since then as a company.' —Graham White, Enbridge
White added that Enbridge is prepared to deal with an emergency if one were to occur, such as the pipeline breach in 2010 in Michigan.
He said Enbridge has a series of extensive preventative and reactive measures in place, and says the company has spent $50 million between 2012 and 2013 to improve their equipment, training, and overall emergency response capabilities.
"When you look at the worst case scenario — and certainly, the Marshall spill in Michigan in 2010 qualifies for that — we've made tremendous improvements and progress since then as a company," said White.
He added that the company spent $850 million to support clean up efforts in Marshall. "We have taken full responsibility for that incident, also in terms of costs."
White said there is a 24-hour, seven day a week continuous monitoring system in place, as well as emergency equipment nearby along the pipeline. Enbridge also works with some of the industry's top professionals, according to White, in terms of their ability to respond to any waterborne hydrocarbon spill.
The National Energy Board has not yet approved the pipeline flow reversal, but White says if it is approved, Enbridge will be conducting more extensive integrity digs.