News & Events

SNG November 12th Council Presentation

On November 12, 2013, Sustainable North Grenville submitted a petition, signed by 314 residents of North Grenville, asking our Municipal Council “to oppose the proposed pipeline until a full assessment has been made of the potential impacts on our drinking water, air, and land, and associated risks to the Rideau River system.

(The petition has also been signed by many visitors and friends of North Grenville who are non-residents. We truly appreciate their support, but because this was presented to the local government, those signatures have been compiled separately.)

The petition was presented for SNG by Chris Weissflog and Ian Angus. The following is the text of their presentation to the Council.

This evening, Sustainable North Grenville is presenting a petition signed by hundreds of citizens of North Grenville, urging Municipal Council to oppose the proposed EnergyEast pipeline conversion, until a full assessment has been made of the potential impacts on our drinking water, air, and land, and associated risks to the Rideau River system.

We’d like to explain why Council should speak out on this project, which in our view is all risk and no reward for North Grenville.

As you know, North Grenville’s Official Plan says that it is Council’s responsibility to protect the Nepean and Oxford aquifers “from any development or activity which could impair the functioning of the aquifer or adversely affect its water quality or quantity.”

The Official Plan also says that the Municipality will “protect, improve and/or restore the quantity and quality of groundwater and surface water.”

So what we are asking you to do is to follow the Official Plan – to protect our rivers and our drinking water from a major threat.

As you know, crude oil is already being moved through North Grenville by rail. You’ve probably heard that pipelines are safer than rail, so you may feel that the pipeline proposal would make us safer. We wish that were true, but it isn’t.

In the first place, the New Brunswick refiners that TransCanada plans to sell its product to say they intend to continue using rail. The pipeline will be in addition to rail, not instead of rail. Instead of one safety problem, we’ll have two.

And in fact, we will see more rail traffic, because the poisonous and explosive solvents that are used to dilute the bitumen will be shipped back to Alberta, by rail. In other words, the pipeline will make the rail safety problem much worse.

But even ignoring that, pipeline breaks are far more damaging to the environment than rail spills, simply because pipelines carry much more crude. In the United States, between 2002 and 2012, pipelines spilled more than 200 times as much crude oil as railcars did.

We need to learn from the Kalamazoo River Spill in Michigan, where a much smaller pipeline broke three years ago, and the cleanup, which has cost $1 Billion so far, is still not complete.

Are we prepared for a similar spill in the Rideau River, a beautiful and historic waterway that is used by sixty to eighty thousand boats a year, and where many North Grenville residents and tourists enjoy swimming, fishing and boating?

What benefits can possibly outweigh the danger of permanently polluting the only UNESCO World Heritage site in all of Ontario?

At last month’s National Energy Board hearings on a similar pipeline conversion, the City of Toronto  said that what the pipeline company called a emergency response plan was a generic, one-size-fits-all to-do list. There was nothing in it about the specific challenges and dangers of the many very different areas the pipeline crosses.

If Toronto isn’t getting the information and support it needs, we respectfully question how ready the North Grenville or even Ottawa services are to deal with a pipeline break.

Energy East threatens the river, farms and homes near the pipeline itself. But the threat to drinking water is much greater.

All drinking water in North Grenville comes from wells – municipal wells in Kemptville, private wells elsewhere. The town gets water from the Nepean Aquifer, which is quite deep and protected, but 70% of homes – that’s about 10,000 people — have private wells, which access the Oxford Aquifer, which is very shallow.

The Rideau Valley Conservation Area rates the Oxford Aquifer as Highly Vulnerable – that’s the worst rating there is – because the rock layer above it is very permeable, and the soil is thin. That means that liquids on the surface can easily get down into the aquifer, poisoning every well they come into contact with.

We share the Oxford Aquifer with Ottawa, so a pipeline break as far away as Richmond or Stittsville, or even Arnprior, could poison wells throughout North Grenville.

It doesn’t take much. In 1991 in Manotick, a tank containing dry cleaning solvent leaked, poisoning local well. Manotick had to spend millions of dollars to pipe water from Ottawa. It is still doing that, because the local water supply still isn’t safe, 22 years later.

We’re not talking about one tank of dry cleaning fluid. We’re talking about 1.1 million barrels of crude oil, every day. For North Grenville, that situation would be all risk and no reward.

So what should Council do? We suggest four things as a minimum.

1 – Adopt and publicize a resolution opposing the proposed EnergyEast pipeline conversion, until a full assessment has been made of the potential impacts on North Grenville’s drinking water, air, and land.

2 – Adopt and publicize a resolution calling on the Provincial Government to conduct a full and public environmental assessment of the proposal.

3 – Register as an intervenor in the National Energy Board hearings on this project, to ensure that the NEB is aware of the concerns of North Grenville citizens.

4 – Urge Ottawa and North Dundas to take similar action, and offer to work with them and other municipalities on the pipeline route to protect the environment we all share.

Thank you.

Click here to view the presentation slides: SNG-Council-Presentation-Slides (pdf)