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Chilliwack chapter at the ‘Off the Aquifer’ information session on the Trans Mountain pipeline

Larry Commodore, a Chilliwack chapter activist, former Soowahlie Chief, and community adviser to the WaterWealth Project, addresses the Off the Aquifer gathering.

The Council of Canadians Chilliwack chapter attended an ‘aquifer information session’ on the impact of the 890,000 barrel per day Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline on their drinking water.

The City’s website notes, “In the City of Chilliwack, water is obtained from the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer, a natural underground water reservoir. The Sardis-Vedder Aquifer lies immediately north of the Vedder River in Sardis. The Sardis-Vedder Aquifer is particularly vulnerable to contamination for several reasons. First, the upper layer of groundwater, the water table, lies only a shallow five to ten meters below the ground’s surface. Second, the boundary layer of soil protecting groundwater from the upper surface is coarse-grained and consequently extremely permeable.”

The Chilliwack-based WaterWealth Project warns, “[The Trans Mountain pipeline] lies on top of and even in the aquifer all of us in our homes, businesses, schools and hospital get our water from.”

The Progress reports, “The event was organized by Rachel Symington, a water resources engineer. She lives 100 metres from where the pipeline crosses and advocates for the preservation of the spaces in Chilliwack that initially drew her to live here. Speakers included Larry Commodore, Dave Schaepe and Ian Stephen. The goal was to educate the community about the proposed and existing pipelines and their proximity to Chilliwack’s groundwater zone. ‘Off the Aquifer’ was held at Inner Vision Yoga.”

A Facebook post by a local participant adds, “45 people took in a really well-rounded case for moving the Kinder Morgan Expansion Project off our Aquifer. Ian Stephen’s maps and visuals, combined with video presentation, graphically depicted the sense in removing a threat by moving the pipeline(s). Rachel Symington, organizer and host of the event, provided her entry point into this issue not only as a water resources engineer but as a resident with a desire to protect what we all love about Chilliwack. The surprise (for me) was the rich cultural backgrounder and big-picture synopsis provided by Dave Schaepe, Director of Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre (SRRMC). This needs to find it’s way into our schools’ curricula.”

A 1-minute video by The Progress about the gathering can be seen here.

Stephen, who is the Campaign Director of The WaterWealth Project, comments, “Great concise coverage by The Progress. Thanks to Inner Vision Yoga, Rachel Symington, Dave Shaepe, Larry Commodore, and everyone pro and anti pipeline alike who showed up to protect the water we all share and that our community depends on.”

The Trudeau government approved the proposed expansion of the 1,150 kilometre Alberta-British Columbia pipeline on November 29, 2016. The expansion would create a twinned pipeline increasing the nominal capacity of the system from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day.

The pipeline would carry diluted bitumen from the tar sands through Jasper National Park (where it has spilled six times), across the drinking water supply for the Coldwater Indian Band near Kamloops, across Chilliwack’s Sardis-Vedder aquifer, and into the Lower Mainland area around Vancouver to the Westridge Marine Terminal at Burrard Inlet on the Pacific Ocean for export on 400 supertankers a year.

Overall, the pipeline would cross 1309 water courses in Alberta and British Columbia. It would also enable a continued expansion of the tar sands in northern Alberta and produce between 20 to 26 megatonnes of carbon pollution a year.

Two-thirds of the 120 First Nations along the pipeline route have not given their free, prior and informed consent for the pipeline.

Texas-based Kinder Morgan says it will begin construction on the pipeline this September. A recent Reuters news report notes that the company has approached the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan (OTPP), and the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) to help finance this $6.8 billion pipeline.