Fire chief raises safety concerns about pipeline plan

Kinder Morgan
Kinder Morgan's Burnaby Terminal on the south slope of Burnaby Mountain where its oil storage tanks are located.
— image credit: NewsLeader File

Burnaby fire department is raising safety concerns about Kinder Morgan's plan to add oil storage tanks to its Burnaby Terminal.

The plan is part of the company's proposal to almost triple capacity of its Trans Mountain pipeline between Edmonton and Burnaby. In addition to adding a second pipeline, the terminal on Burnaby Mountain would go from 13 to 26 tanks within the existing footprint of the property.

Among the concerns outlined in a report from Burnaby Fire Chief Doug McDonald is the terminal's location close to the Lochdale, Sperling-Duthie, Meadowood and Forest Grove residential neighbourhoods, as well as Simon Fraser University and the UniverCity neighbourhood.

The company's Edmonton terminal is located 1,000 metres away from the closest residential properties, the report said.

In Burnaby, it's 20 metres away.

Also problematic is the terminal's location on the south slope of Burnaby Mountain "for which the geotechnical stability of the area may be of concern." It's also at the head of the watersheds for Eagle and Silver creeks, which drain into Burnaby Lake and other water bodies, and fish-bearing waterways including the Brunette River (which drains into the Fraser River).

The report notes the distance between storage tanks is a safety feature to help prevent or reduce the spread of tank fires, something that would be affected by the proposed addition of more tanks within the same space.

"Kinder Morgan's application to the NEB (National Energy Board) proposes to potentially locate a number of storage tanks in proximity to the fence line, posing risks to adjacent and nearby residential neighbourhoods … and environmentally sensitive conservation lands."

And while Burnaby has asked the company to address its concerns, the responses so far "have been evasive," the report said.

McDonald told council Monday that Burnaby fire department does not have the capacity or training to deal with the type of major fire or emergency that could occur at the tank farm. Such fires can burn for days with no way for firefighters to put them out, he said.

"Until Kinder Morgan gets here with their expertise, we're left to respond with what we have here and make the best of it. It's a challenge."

He said it's "very credible" that oil spilled from the tank farm could flow downhill to Burnaby Lake. "It will end up somewhere other than where it's supposed to end up."

Mayor Derek Corrigan told McDonald, "Your report is very complete, very informative and very scary." He hopes it can help people understand why Burnaby city hall is so concerned about Kinder Morgan's expansion proposal.

Earlier in the meeting, council discussed the fact Kinder Morgan did not answer 62 per cent of the 1,500 questions the city submitted as an intervenor as part of the NEB review process.

"Not only did they tell us their emergency plan is secret, and we have to sign a confidentiality agreement in order to look at it," Corrigan said, "but we also have to agree that we'll accept it before we get to look at it."

Corrigan added that the city supported the construction of the existing pipeline in the 1950s because it was intended to support local refineries that came with real, long-term jobs. Since then, all the refineries except for Chevron have moved to places with more lenient environmental standards and where the oil companies can make more money, he said.

"The reality is there are no jobs being created out of this. The only jobs that might be created is a need for more firefighters."

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