Weaknesses in TransCanada pipeline could pose risk to North Bay's drinking water source

More than 1,000 fittings along the TransCanada Pipeline may be made of substandard materials and therefore less resistant to rupture, according to documents obtained by Radio-Canada.

Radio-Canada investigation shows more than 1,000 pipeline fittings could be made of substandard material

TransCanada plans to convert some pipeline from gas to oil as part of it's Energy East proposal. (The Canadian Press)

More than 1,000 fittings along the TransCanada Pipeline may be made of substandard materials and therefore less resistant to rupture, according to documents obtained by Radio-Canada.

Some of those elbows and steel fittings are located along a stretch of gas pipeline in North Bay, Ont. 

TransCanada plans to convert that portion of pipeline from gas to oil as part of its Energy East project, a proposed pipeline that would move oil from western Canada eastward.

The proposed pipeline runs right through North Bay's watershed, along the escarpment, and directly underneath the east end of Trout Lake, which is the city's drinking water source.

"If there was a rupture or a spill [of oil], the potential to contaminate our only source of drinking water [puts us] at risk," North Bay mayor Al McDonald told CBC News.

Pipeline runs directly under Trout Lake

McDonald said the current pipeline has ruptured in the past, but did not pose a risk to the lake, as the natural gas was released into the atmosphere.

It wouldn't be the same if those pipes were carrying oil.

"If we had to close down the water treatment plant so that the oil ... doesn't get pulled into our whole drinking water system, we have no ability to service 54,000 individuals," he said.

Energy board aware of risk since 2008

The National Energy Board (NEB) has known since 2008 that some elbows and steel fittings installed in Canadian pipelines are too thin and thus less resistant to rupture, according to Radio-Canada's investigation.

But the regulator only issued a safety notice about the problem in February.

In a written response, TransCanada said "after discovering that some fittings supplied by manufacturers were weaker than those we had ordered," it has conducted a comprehensive technical assessment of its networks.

The company said it ensures that its networks operate safely.

City struggling to find information

"We still don't have enough data [about the pipeline] to make an informed decision," McDonald said. "We've been struggling trying to find all the right information."

We as a city need to do everything within our power to protect our only source of drinking water.- Al McDonald, North Bay mayor

"Now those facts and details are coming out, this has confirmed our position that we need to be strong," McDonald said. 

"We as a city need to do everything within our power to protect our only source of drinking water."

'We have absolutely no power'

A National Energy Board hearing will be held in North Bay in November.

The city has set aside $250,000 for legal assistance on the issue, McDonald said.

"What we're looking for is not just reassurance, but facts that the pipeline would be safe going through our [city]. And so far we have not seen that," he said.

"We have a voice. [But] we have absolutely no power. As the end of the day the National Energy Board is going to make their decision and the federal government will say yea or nay," he said.

New documents show potential weaknesses in pipeline that could be used to carry oil across the country with TransCanada's Energy East Project. One of those weak sections is in North Bay. We spoke with mayor Al McDonald about his concerns.

With files from Radio-Canada's Sylvie Fournier


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