Pollution charges laid in dramatic Burnaby oil pipeline rupture
Larry Pynn , Vancouver Sun, October 5, 2009
METRO VANCOUVER -- The B.C. Ministry of Environment has laid charges in connection with the dramatic rupture of a crude oil pipeline in Burnaby in 2007.
Kinder Morgan Canada and Trans Mountain Pipeline are each charged with seven counts, and B. Cusano Contracting and R.F. Binnie & Associates each with six counts under the federal Fisheries Act, federal Migratory Birds Convention Act, and provincial Environmental Management Act.
Scott Norris, a provincial conservation officer with the commercial environmental investigation unit, said in an interview Monday that the investigation was conducted in cooperation with Environment Canada.
Each count carries a maximum potential fine of $1 million.
The case was remanded Monday in Vancouver provincial court until Jan. 13, 2010.
A federal transportation safety board report last March concluded that failure to verify the accuracy of 1957 design drawings indicating the location of the pipeline led to a contractor's excavator bucket causing a massive rupture.
That oversight was among a series of errors leading to the July 24, 2007, spill of 234 cubic metres of crude oil on Inlet Drive.
The board found that no one determined ahead of time that the drawings were inaccurate; rather than running in a straight line, the 610-millimetre-wide pipeline actually snaked its way to the Westridge terminal.
The pipeline, which was operated by Kinder Morgan and owned by Trans Mountain Pipeline, ruptured at 12:31 p.m. during digging of a parallel trench for a new City of Burnaby storm sewer line on Inlet Drive.
The 1957 design drawings showed a "constant offset of 8.5 metres from the east property line of Inlet Drive" but in fact the offset varied between four and almost 10 metres, the board found.
It was assumed by all parties that the sewer line would maintain a distance of 2.8 metres from the oil pipeline.
The report said that Burnaby and Kinder Morgan signed an agreement allowing for the sewer construction that required in part for a Kinder Morgan inspector to verify the depth and location of the 4.1-km pipeline, which delivers crude oil from above-ground tanks to tankers at Westridge dock.
A Kinder Morgan inspector using a radio-detection hand-held pipeline locator verified the location of the oil pipeline along only about a 30-metre stretch on July 16, 2007.
The contractor did not ask for a greater area of the pipeline to be checked, and the inspector did not offer to do more, even though an alignment discrepancy had been noted between the 1957 drawings and another construction drawing from previous work.
The report also found that "inadequate communication" within Kinder Morgan and between Kinder Morgan and the consultant and contractor on the project resulted in "no common understanding or acceptance of the project work plan and the contractor's construction schedule."
Burnaby hired B. Cusano Contracting and engineering consultant R.F. Binnie & Associates for the job.
The board found that the amount of oil released was greater than necessary because the flow was cut off to a tanker after the rupture and "was not in conformity with standard emergency shutdown procedures."
Crude oil spewed up to 15 metres in the air for about 25 minutes before the oil flow was stopped, affecting 50 homes and properties and the waters of Burrard Inlet.
The report said 210 cubic metres of oil were recovered. There was no explosion or fire and no injuries in the rupture, although several people were sprayed with oil.
About 250 residents voluntarily left their homes.