COLUMN: Coastal Gaslink can’t be blamed for everything

Thom debunks some erroneous connections people made between last week's earthquakes and a landslide

Sometimes I feel like a professional debunker.

Last week there were several stories that people erroneously connected together.

Let’s first dispense with the linking of the 6.2 magnitude earthquake off the southern tip of Haida Gwaii Wednesday and two large shocks later in the week in California.

Not true, but the funny thing about our social media world is someone only needs to speculate, or even say something in jest, and it can quickly turn into “fact” for a whole lot of people.

Plate tectonics, which is responsible for seismic activity all along the Pacific coast from Alaska to Argentina, is a very complex and active network of fault systems. Both Canadian and American geologists quickly responded that, although they happened close together in time, it was merely coincidental.

And it’s not even a surprising coincidence. B.C. has experienced more than 500 earthquakes in the past year. California counts theirs in the thousands annually.

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Moving on to the landslide that muddied the Kitimat River on Thursday shutting down the town’s water supply.

Some people connected the Haida quake to this event as well.

Earthquakes can cause landslides, but that earthquake did not cause that landslide. It was barely felt on the mainland coast approximately 100 kilometres away, much less more than 350 kilometres away where the landslide occurred.

Next up were the conspiracy theorists. Coastal GasLink (CGL) did it. For some, the company has become the bogeyman for all the evils in the northwest, but while they were working in the area, this occurred upstream from them. Whatever they were doing could not have caused the load on the clay that would make it liquefy like that.

What could, and almost certainly did, was heavy rain. That’s how it works, folks. Clay can be fairly stable, but given the right conditions, swoosh.

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It gets better, though. Others actually suggested it was earthquakes caused by CGL’s fracking activities that caused the slide.

In the first place, Coastal is a pipeline company; it does not produce the gas it will eventually transport. Secondly, while some studies have linked fracking to localized seismic activity, the fracking that is producing the gas that CGL’s pipeline will eventually carry is being conducted hundreds of miles away in northeast B.C.

Look, I’m not advocating for pipelines or LNG or fracking or anything like that. There are certainly risks to both fracking and pipelines and I certainly think we need to tread carefully with these things and go in eyes wide open.

But let’s get our facts straight, shall we?

This mudslide is not related.

And finally, no, none of this is God punishing us for our sins.


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