Kingston residents and elected officials say they have concerns about Enbridge Inc.'s plan to change how oil flows through a pipeline that runs through their community.
Enbridge's Line 9 has carried foreign crude oil from Montreal to Sarnia, Ont., along a path that closely follows Highway 401 in eastern Ontario, cutting through communities such as Cornwall, Brockville and Kingston.
With oil from Alberta now less expensive than imported oil, the Calgary-base energy company is seeking approval to reverse the flow of the oil from west to east and boost capacity from 240,000 to 300,000 barrels a day.
The National Energy Board began hearing final arguments for the pipeline proposal on Tuesday in Montreal
Homeowners have concerns about well water safety
Kingston city councillor Jeff Scott represents many of the rural homeowners in Kingston and said the proposal has raised concerns in the community about the safety of well water.
Scott said the city's three wetlands are another big concern. The pipeline has valves on either side of the Rideau Canal that could stop the flow of oil if the pipeline were to leak. But Millhaven, Collins, and Little Cataraqui Creek do not, he said.
"They're very vulnerable. If there's a line break in it, it's going to be very messy and environmentally damaging," he said.
Some Kingston residents, like engineer and environmental activist Gavin Hutchinson, also have concerns about Enbridge's plan to transport diluted bitumen from the Alberta oilsands along the pipeline.
Hutchinson wants Enbridge to install thicker sturdier pipes to ensure the bitumen does not corrode the old pipes, but Enbridge doesn't want to upset people by digging the pipe up and so has been replacing sections.
Enbridge has been travelling to communities to explain the MRI-like tool it uses to inspect the 37-year-old steel line and then make fixes. Company spokesman Graham White said even some of the oldest pipe along the line are in very good shape as a result.
City sends energy board its concerns
While Kingston has no say over whether the pipeline is finally approved, city staff sent the board a list of a dozen concerns to consider; from protecting the city's drinking water, to making sure it has the training and money to deal with a spill if one were to ever happen.
Paul MacLatchey, the city's director of Environment & Sustainable Initiatives, said municipalities are particularly concerned after Enbridge's 2010 spill, which leaked 20,000 barrels of crude into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.
"That was a spectacularly disastrous failure," said MacLatchey. "A lot of environmental damage, a lot of disruption to people's lives....Certainly we don't want anything like that to happen in Kingston or anywhere close to us.
"It's not so much that our comments to the National Energy Board were designed to oppose the proposal but more to express our concerns that if the proposal to reverse the flow [happens]...that the operation and maintenance standards should be higher than business as usual," said MacLatchey.
'A better company' after Kalamazoo spill, says Enbridge
White said Enbridge has also taken full responsibility for for the Kalamazoo spill and made a billion dollars worth of changes across the company.
"People aren't looking at the proven and substantive changes...we've made in our operations," said White.
"We're such a better company as a result of that incident and it makes us the perfect company to be doing this kind of project where safety is such a huge concern," said White.
The National Energy Board is expected to make a decision on whether Enbridge can go ahead in early 2014.