The Council of Canadians - Winnipeg Chapter



Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on May 29, 2015 at 12:50 AM

There are many economic and environmental reasons to say NO to the pipeline. Here we’ll look briefly at several issues; sources and more information can be found in the recently released report, “Potential Impacts of the Energy East Pipeline On Winnipeg.”

The report covers concerns about the effect of a leak near rivers, drainage ditches, aquifers, and lakes; and the risk to Winnipeg’s aqueduct carrying drinking water from Shoal Lake to Winnipeg. A section on pipeline failure looks at the realities of converting a leaking 40 year old natural gas pipeline to carry the far more corrosive and toxic diluted bitumen. The differences between a natural gas line failure and the far more extreme consequences of a dilbit line failure are examined, including a look at the dangers of deadly hydrogen sulphide. The report also addresses the need for safety and emergency measures in the event of explosion and fire, and the longer term effects of a spill on residents, recreation and commercial interests.

We've opened our blog series with a quick overview of points to be considered. Articles focusing on specific issues will be added over the next two weeks. 


Potential Impacts and Problems of the Energy East Pipeline in Manitoba




  • TransCanada has an extensive history of pipeline failure. More failures will occur.

  • The prairie section of the pipeline is 40 years old. The coating is made of asphalt and it has deteriorated so much that it can’t protect against cracking.

  • TransCanada relies on a standard inspection system ( “smart pigs” ) that is unreliable and often does not detect leaks. Most leaks have eventually been noticed by people, not by the inspection system.

  • The Calgary based system for monitoring pressure in the pipeline is ineffective. It can only detect spills over 2.6 million litres per day, and relies on people to properly interpret the pressure signals.




  • Hydrogen Sulphide (a deadly toxic and corrosive gas) will form in the pipeline from the sulphur contained in bitumen. Microbes in the pipeline act on sulphur to turn it into H2S, and high temperatures in the pipeline can transform sulphur into H2S.

  • The pipeline is known to have continuous small leaks that could expose the public to deadly hydrogen sulphide gas and other toxins.

  • Natural gas lines that explode are near enough to the parallel dilbit line to cause a fire and explosion. A dilbit explosion is much bigger, longer lasting, and more dangerous than a natural gas explosion. A dilbit explosion could be lethal due to deadly toxic smoke and fumes.

  • Pressure surges could rupture the line. They could also cause toxic fumes to vent through surge protection valves or surge tanks.

  • The rate of benzene leaking undetected out of a 3mm hole in the pipeline dissolved by the average precipitation rate over the Hazel Creek watershed gives a benzene concentration 346 times the allowed limit.



  • Because the pipeline crosses waterways and aquifers in Manitoba, there is a significant risk to drinking water in many communities, including Kenton, Rivers, Sioux Valley, Brandon, Neepawa, Portage and Sanford.

  • Extensive drainage ditches around Winnipeg often empty into waterways, and could extend the reach of a spill.

  • The pipeline crosses two major surface aquifers. The Assiniboine Delta aquifer supplies water for agriculture, town wells and Manitoba’s potato industry.The Sandilands Aquifer is an “ecological gem” that is home to the headwaters of five watersheds.

  • The pipeline travels within a spill reach of the Winnipeg aqueduct for the entire length of the aqueduct. The aqueduct is porous and could be contaminated from nearby pipeline spills.

  • Unseen soluble toxins like benzene from small continuous undetected spills could enter the aqueduct from contaminated surface water.

  • A spill could contaminate city waterways including the Red, Seine and La Salle Rivers. (The Kalamazoo River is still closed in many sections, four years after the spill.)

  • Recreational activities in river walkways and parks will be compromised due to tar balls and other lingering sources of contamination.

  • Valuable fish habitat could be destroyed from a spill.

  • Water contamination will cause temporary or long term loss of the sport fishery.

  • A spill will contaminate sources of irrigation for agriculture, manufacturing and recreation (golf courses for instance).




  • Evacuation because of toxic fumes, explosion, and fire is not addressed in the TransCanada submission. (In Kalamazoo, residents within one mile of the river evacuated their homes. 150 homes were permanently relocated.)

  • The expense and impossibility of cleaning up dilbit spills is clearly demonstrated by the ongoing unsuccessful efforts in Kalamazoo.

  • Toxic dilbit spills cause long term ecological damage and contamination of the food chain

  • Contaminated river bank property will suffer devaluation.

  • There will be a loss of commercial activity on the river such as boat tours and water taxis.

  • Continued expansion of tar sands and use of bitumen means more climate change, ecocide, sulphur waste and petroleum coke waste. (These vital issues are not currently considered in the decision making process.)





Categories: No Energy East Pipeline

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