Restart of Trans Mountain pipeline after Abbotsford spill surprising, frustrating for Sumas Chief

ABBOTSFORD (NEWS 1130) — The Chief of the Sumas First Nation was surprised to learn the Trans Mountain pipeline has restarted, and says openness and transparency have been sorely lacking since Saturday’s spill.

The Crown-owned company estimates as much as 1,195 barrels, or 190,000 litres, of light crude spilled from its pipeline at the Sumas Pump Station in Abbotsford.

Chief Dalton Silver says getting trying to get accurate information has been frustrating.

“We were told that the leak let out an estimated 15,000 litres and then that was raised to 38,000 litres–and now it’s maybe three times, four times more than that,” he says.

“It took us this long, until [Sunday] afternoon to get our monitors on site. They kept stalling and giving us reasons as to why not, talking about safety concerns and everything. I mean, all their employees are out there with the safety equipment on. I said, ‘Well equip us with the safety equipment, put it on our monitors, and we’ll get out there.'”

The company released a statement saying the pipeline was up and running as of 2 p.m. Sunday.

“That they’re up and running Sunday afternoon, my sister just read that to me off her phone. That was the first I heard of it, so there you go with the openness and transparency,” Silvers says.

“I would really rather hear it from those at the incident command post.”

The statement from Trans Mountain says the command post remains active and “clean-up and remediation will continue in coordination with regulators, Indigenous groups and the local community.”

Silver says the lack of clear communication and “mixed messages” shows a lack of respect for his people and their territory, and undermines efforts at reconciliation.

“I’ve expressed concerns. It’s a Canadian company and the government of Canada is talking nation to nation, government to government, and recognition of us as a people and our territories. We’ve yet to see that come to fruition on the ground.”

Silver says Saturday’s spill was the fourth on the territory in the last 15 years, and he worries about cumulative effects.

“No one is really saying how worried we are about our aquifer that supplies drinking water to my community,” he explains.

“The Sumas station here is right on what was once Sumas Lake so I have a big worry that it’s seeping into the ground, and our aquifer is under there. But no one seems to be expressing any concern for that from the government side.”

While an investigation is ongoing Trans Mountain says the cause of the spill appears to be related to a fitting on a one-inch, or 2.5-centimetre, piece of pipe.

In its statement, it said the spill was fully contained on Trans Mountain property, the free-standing oil has been recovered and it will be disposed of at an approved facility.

“The site has permanent groundwater monitoring in place and air monitoring continues. Monitoring has not identified any risk to the public or community,” the statement reads.

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