On May 25 I participated in a press conference organized by the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition in which they announced the release of a report documenting why the pipeline poses threats to our water. The report, written by Dennis LeNeveu, a retired biophysicist, spells out clearly why we should be concerned about the possibility of leaks from the pipeline which will be carrying diluted bitumen from the oil sands in Alberta all across Canada to ports on the east coast.
Here are the points that jumped out at me:
• The Energy East Pipeline will facilitate movement of greater amounts of diluted bitumen adding to the overall problem of climate change by allowing for the release of more CO2 emissions. It is not a case of stopping the use of rail cars to carry oil products but rather adding to the transport capacity across Canada.
• This is not a newly constructed pipeline, specially designed for oil products, but rather a re-purposed natural gas pipeline that is already 40 years old. It is one of 6 TransCanada pipelines that cross the country and that have had 30 incidences of ruptures since 1979, (specific places and dates can be found in page 6 of the report).As well as these known ruptures there are many leaks occurring constantly, too small to be detected. With natural gas, the leaks will simply dissipate in the air but this is not the case for oil products.
• The pipeline crosses several streams, rivers and watersheds in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario as well as the aqueduct that carries water from Shoal Lake to Winnipeg. The aqueduct is 100 years old, made of concrete and full of tiny cracks that result in 5% of the water being transported leaking out. Pollutants from small leaks in the pipeline can seep into the aqueduct the same way that water seeps out of it.
• One of the pollutants in diluted bitumen is benzene which is carcinogenic. One drop in a litre of water is cancer causing and it is not a substance that is routinely tested for in our drinking water. The proximity of the pipeline to the drinking water supplies of many communities in Manitoba, including Winnipeg, poses threats to 2/3 of Manitoba’s population.
To sum up I want to stress that water is the lifeblood of all living things, plants, animals and humans alike. There is simply no substitute for clean, safe water. Yet there are substitutes for our energy needs – we can reduce and eventually replace the use of fossil fuels with renewable energy. So it makes no sense to me why we would threaten what is essential to our survival for something that is not essential and is actually contributing to such serious threats worldwide.