Enbridge ordered to consult with N.W.T. community

The National Energy Board has ordered Enbridge to consult with people who have been affected by a pipeline spill near Wrigley, N.W.T.
Enbridge crews clean up the oil spill at the Norman Wells pipeline near Wrigley, N.W.T. The company estimates that 700 to 1,500 barrels of oil leaked from a pinhole-sized crack in the pipeline on May 9. (Submitted by D'Arcy J. Moses)

The National Energy Board has ordered Enbridge to consult with people who have been affected by a pipeline spill near Wrigley, N.W.T.

Enbridge crews have been cleaning up the spill at the pipeline, about 35 kilometres from Wrigley, since 700 to 1,500 barrels of crude oil leaked into a forested area on May 9.

The company originally reported that only four barrels had spilled, but it revised that estimate  after further investigation.

The leak was traced back to a small, pinhole-sized "crack transverse to a girth weld" on the pipeline, according to the company.

Enbridge repaired the pipeline and restarted it on May 20, albeit with a 20 per cent pressure reduction that it voluntarily adopted.

But late on Friday, the NEB said Enbridge will not be allowed to bring the pipeline back to full production without the board's permission.

Written request required

Enbridge must submit a written request to the NEB 30 days before it wants to increase the operating pressure on the pipeline.

That written request must include an engineering assessment plan that shows the pipeline is "fit for service at higher pressure," according to the order.

In addition to that request, Enbridge has until June 24 to submit a report on its consultation efforts with community members who may have been affected by the spill.

"The board expects Enbridge to continue with its consultations with affected people, including aboriginal groups, and to report to the board about the outcomes of those consultations," according to the NEB's order.

The June 24 report is one of a series of consultation summaries Enbridge must file with the NEB on a quarterly basis over the next year.

$2M spent on cleanup

Enbridge says it has spent nearly $2 million to clean up the oil spill, with some of that money being spent to hire a handful of workers from Wrigley, a remote community of about 170.

"We're trying to stay positive about everything and trying to benefit from the business side of it. But at the same time, we want our land back the way it was," Wes Pellissey, one of the first residents who saw the spill, told CBC News.

"Hopefully we can work together with all the companies involved and all the people involved so we can all walk away from this like before it happened."

Pellissey said he is impressed with Enbridge's cleanup efforts to date, adding that the spill could have been much worse.

But many residents note that the spill took place adjacent to some wetlands where they would normally hunt ducks every spring. As a result, the hunt is not happening this year.

"This is a prime harvesting area and not only that, but a prime fishing area as well. That's where we set our nets … and we have not been able to do that this spring," said Jonas Antoine, who lives less than two kilometres from the spill site.

MLAs toured spill site

Three Northwest Territories MLAs who toured the spill site last week said they want to know why Enbridge did not discover the pinhole leak until it was too late.

Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley, who travelled to Wrigley along with Nahendeh MLA Kevin Menicoche and Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya, said he wonders what other spills Enbridge may have missed.

"If there were two or three or four of these out there — and who's to say there isn't? — obviously then we're getting quite significant in terms of both environmental and economic damage," Bromley said.

Bromley said more regulatory work needs to be done with the NEB to prevent similar spills from happening in the North.

Yakeleya called on the NEB to pay closer attention to Enbridge's cleanup work.