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La Salle River rupture: TransCanada misleading on safety track record?

In a recent presentation to Fredericton’s Chamber of Commerce, Kevin Maloney, the Manager of New Build Pipelines for Alberta and New Brunswick for TransCanada, stated: “We have never had a failure in a watercourse crossing. Ever.” See Global News coverage of the presentation

As part of our Prairies Energy East, Our Risk – Their Reward tour, we were led today on a tour of key sites in St. Norbert (part of Winnipeg) by a local organic farmer. She and others in the community can testify that this just isn’t the case.

In 1996 a TransCanada natural gas pipeline (manufactured in 1962) ruptured in a watercourse here.

According to the Transportation and Safety Board report: “Several eye witnesses saw flying debris and a geyser of mud and water shooting up from the La Salle River, at a point where TCPL crosses the river.”

Visiting the site, we learned that the rupture, first identified by local residents (not TransCanada’s electronic leak detection system) led to the fire and destruction of a local home. Thankfully no one was home at the time, sadly their cat was.

Standing on a local dyke you can look down and see two properties surrounding the rupture location, one where the house used to stand, as a large gap of the trees in the area.

According to the Transportation and Safety report on the pipeline explosion:

“The Board determined that the rupture of Line 100-2 was caused by a ductile overload fracture, the result of high external stresses on the surface of the pipeline; stresses which were, in turn, the result of movement of the slope in which the pipe was buried. The rupture was assisted by the existence of an environmentally assisted crack at the toe of the circumferential weld that connected two joints of pipe together. There is the possibility that the initial crack could have been present since the original construction of that section of the pipeline.”

In other words, when they put the pipe in, it could have been cracked. In the meantime, the placement of the pipe on the banks of the La Salle River made it vulnerable to shifting ground which helped worsen the crack which caused the explosion.

The report also notes, “Previous construction activities have highlighted the instability of the east bank of the La Salle River crossing. During the installation of Line 100-4, a significant slump occurred, when the Line 100-4 trench wall failed, exposing Line 100-3.” Note: Line 100-4 is the pipeline slated for conversion to Energy East in the area.

From the time of the pipeline break, it took around 30 minutes to completely cut off the natural gas supply.

This pipeline is 10 ft away from the one they want to convert to carry crude oil for the Energy East project.

The Energy East pipeline would pump up to 3 million litres in the course of 30 minutes.

The location on the La Salle River is also very close to where La Salle flows into the Red River, which then winds its way through Winnipeg towards the historic site of The Forks where the Red River joins the Assiniboine River.  A spill here near or in the waterways threatens to see crude flow through the river to this National Historic Site.

Energy East would carry a slate of crudes including diluted bitumen which has proven to sink when spilled and stick to nearly everything it touches. As seen in the Kalamazoo River spill, it is very hard to clean up (requiring dredging of the river bed). 4 years later and over $1.5 million spent, some of the diluted bitumen still remains at the bottom of the river.

Manitoba has seen a number of ruptures on TransCanada’s natural gas pipelines including most recently in Otterburn, as well as well as two incidents in the Rapid City area.

According to National Energy Board statistics, TransCanada has had more ruptures than any other pipeline company in Canada.

We were led on the tour by Louise May of Aurora Farms whose organic farm is near the pipeline path. She is very concerned about what a spill in her area would mean for her livelihood.  

Read the pipeline investigation report here.

Tonight we will have the first of four public forums for the Prairies Energy East tour. 

The tour and site visit are in solidarity with the more than 25,000 people marching in Quebec City ahead of the Premiers meeting on climate change this week stating clearly that acting on climate means saying no to new tar sands pipelines and expansion