NORTHERN GATEWAY: Environmental lawyer takes Enbridge to task over spills
Enbridge has been testing its supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system as an ongoing project for years, however those efforts were redoubled following the Marshall incident.
“In fact we have been doing this for many, many years. This is not just as a result of the Marshall incident,” Barry Callele, an expert witness on behalf of Enbridge before the Joint Review Panel Thursday, said of the testing. “Certainly there’s been, obviously, an increased focus on this and a redoubling of efforts to ensure that we are protecting those that live along our right-of-way and the environments that we pass through.”
Callele was responding to cross examination questions directed at him from Tim Leadem, a lawyer representing three environmental groups, ForestEthics Advocacy, the Raincoast Foundation and Living Ocean.
On July 26, 2010 877,000 US gallons of diluted bitumen leaked into the Talmadge Creek, which flows into the Kalamazoo River, near Marshall, Michigan.
Instead of being caught by SCADA, the leak was reported first by locals who smelled a noxious odour, then later by a resident who saw oil spilling into nearby wetlands.
It was expected to take several weeks to remove the oil from the water, several months to clear the oil from the flood plains and longer to clean the marsh where the spill originated. A year later, 35 miles of the river remained closed.
Clean-up costs, originally estimated at $5 million, surpassed $585 million.
Besides questioning the leak detection systems used by Enbridge, Leadem made a point of discussing construction aspects of the pipeline, the magnitude of the project and the use of contractors and subcontractors.
Leadem asked if there was a quality insurance program in place, in particular when it comes to welding the pipelines in place, a procedure requiring precision.
“Have you given some thought to how you would ensure that all of those hundreds, if not thousands, of welds that will have to be done on the pipeline are done in such a fashion that they’re safe and they’re not going to necessarily cause leakage and pull apart and fracture and things of that nature. What are you going to do?” Leadem asked.
“All of our welds are subjected to a 100 per cent NDT inspection, which is either ultrasonic or radiography. In fact very recently in this regard, and if you want to get into the details, we’ve submitted an extensive IR response to the JRP that gets into our detailed practices, including those that exceed code minimums,” Tom Fiddler, Enbridge expert, replied.
Leadem asked if those standards were also applied to contractors and subcontractors, and he was told they were. He went on to question the expert panel about another issue, one that resulted in Enbridge being fined just over $1,000,000 for work done primarily by contractors.
“Getting back to the question of contractors and the oversight of contractors, obviously, something went wrong with respect to Wisconsin . We heard some evidence from you yesterday about the pipeline in Wisconsin which resulted in various violations under the Wisconsin Civil Code and Statutes relating to construction such as deposition of fill and wetlands, running equipment right through wetlands and so forth and it resulted eventually in a judgment of $1.1 million that was assessed against Enbridge,” Leadem said.
“There were also some requirements that, if you went through the long list, were judgment calls, if you will, such as untimely collection and disposal of construction debris such as pipe ropes, cutbacks on quoting, those types of things. There was also a very unique requirement and, not to make excuses in these regards because it was a permit condition that we not rut sub-soil more than six inches which is really an unheard of expectation but, certainly, an expectation nonetheless and it caused some controversy as you might expect living in northern B.C. and observing what happens in wet conditions with equipment,” he said. “ That’s not to say that there was any permanent effect. All of the wetlands that I mentioned -- and there was somewhere over 1,400 wetlands in that 321 kilometres, were all restored to the satisfaction of the regulator in final acceptance.”
Leadem said he was concerned about the track record Enbridge has dealing with wetlands.
“Can you really assure the people of Canada that you’re to be trusted, your company can be trusted to do this job?” he asked.
He was told the project was 10 years in the making with large volumes of material filed. The company had come up with a preliminary design process, consulted with Aboriginal communities and included feedback into the design.
“And really, this is all meant for the JRP to evaluate the proposal, for them to come to the conclusion whether there are any significant adverse environmental effects that could be associated with this project,” Ray Doering, Enbridge expert witness, said.
“I suppose the good people of Wisconsin were told more or less the same thing before construction debris was placed in their wetlands,” Leadem said. “When I speak of trust, I speak of the trust that you’re trying to engender in the Canadian public, that your company is trying to engender in the Canadian public. And if I look at the track record and I’ve just focused on the construction, I’m not going to focus on the spill record, that’s coming later, then I’m not left with a great degree of trust.”
Fiddler said he took exception to the suggestion Enbridge fouled the wetlands in Wisconsin, and that ultimately the construction debris was collected.
Neither, he said, was it being left and covered. The problem was it wasn’t necessarily being picked up the same day it was removed.
“In any case, that aside, certainly as part of this project and our projects of recent recall, we’ve got an environmental protection and management plan for construction and within that we detail, and we’ll get into that in a future panel, all of the risk mitigation and work processes that we employ, progressively as a process and a methodology of management of construction that mitigates risks that were unfortunately incurred in Wisconsin,” Fiddler said.