By Matthew Van Dongen
METROLAND WEST MEDIA GROUP
Enbridge will make public the results of confidential safety tests on a 38-year-old pipeline the company wants to use to move oil from the west through rural Hamilton.
Enbridge Pipelines is seeking regulatory approval for a plan to reverse the flow in its Line 9 pipeline that currently carries imported oil from Montreal to Sarnia via a hub in Westover.
The first leg of the project was approved by the National Energy Board (NEB). But some environmentalists, worried about transportation of heavy crude, diluted bitumen and the potential for spills, are pushing Hamilton and other cities to oppose the second phase of the reversal at a hearing late this summer.
In the face of growing calls for safety assurances, Enbridge will now share “summarized data” from in-line inspections and “integrity digs” along Line 9 with municipal councils, said company spokesperson Ken Hall.
Last year, Enbridge said the safety inspection results represented “competitive information” that could not be released. City council and the Hamilton Conservation Authority responded by formally calling for access to the pipeline test results. Other municipalities followed suit, said Hall.
Councillor Brian McHattie, who authored the city motion calling for information, said the company’s plan to share the results is “encouraging,” as long as it’s also timely.
“I think council’s main concern is making sure the pipeline is safe, that there isn’t going to be leaks or bursts (after the flow is reversed),” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll get the information in time to make an informed decision on how the city should participate in the upcoming hearing.”
The deadline to apply to participate in the late summer NEB hearing is April 11.
Hall said Enbridge experts are evaluating in-line inspections data that will determine how many integrity digs are necessary along the section of Line 9 running between Westover and Montreal. He wasn’t sure if the results would be available to municipal councils by the end of March.
Environment Hamilton founder Lynda Lukasik said she was glad public pressure convinced Enbridge to release the safety data.
“They have an obligation, at a minimum, to provide residents with information to ensure there will not be an impact,” she said. “I guess it remains to be seen if it’s enough information.”
Hall said the company would give a summary of test results rather than “raw data that you would need to be an engineer to understand.”
An in-line inspection, he said, uses ultrasonic technology to “see” potential cracks, dents and corrosion. Based on those tests, workers dig up portions of the pipeline to eyeball potential problems. Hall said Enbridge will list the number of expected integrity digs in Hamilton, why they’re needed and potential repairs.
The company also plans to make a presentation to the conservation authority March 7.