Letters to the Editor.

Piping up about threats to kids

To the Editor,

One of our most precious legacies is the children we leave behind. In this industrialized society, with its ever more formal institutions, we often transfer the care of children with a legal obligation called “duty of care.”

In some cases that obligation gets shoved aside by political and industrial interests such as the construction of pipelines near schools.

Lower Mainlanders became sensitized to the dangers of oil pipelines during the Burnaby oil spill in ‘07. Further sensitization took place when Trans Mountain revealed plans for the twinning of its 65 year old pipeline. Until then, many were unaware that the old pipeline ran so close to so many schools.

Further study showed that TM had tripled its operating pressure and doubled its flow rate . The new pressure was sufficient to split sections of defective pipe along the welds. This happened in Kalamazoo, Mi. when an Enbridge pipeline carrying bitumen did exactly that. The largest spill in US history has been well documented.

Also, it was learned that diluted bitumen from the tar sands carried extremely toxic products like benzene and toluene.

A legal challenge in Nevada then made the news. Here, a pipeline leaked some nasties into the soil under a schoolyard. A cluster of cancer cases and the death of one child resulted when the toxic gases evaporated.

If the new specifications of the old pipeline weren’t enough, another mamoth pipeline was going to be added to the right of way. This would triple the flow of oil. Many people realized that this would render the situation many times more dangerous for school kids.

BROKE, a Burnaby advocacy group, noted that the TM pipeline passed near several schools and it learned of some major leaks near these and some daycares each year from 2007-10. These incidents required emergency evacuations . In January, 2012, a private school in Sumas had to be closed.

In 2019, the Chilliwack School District sent a letter to the pipeline regulator opposing the expansion because the right of way ran too close to two schools. Other actions have also been taken by teachers’ groups and PACs (parent advisory committees).

Advocates for school safety in the Lower Mainland have red-flagged four schools within 200 metres of the TM pipeline. Despite a lot of citizen pressure, no concessions have been made.

Clearwater’s high school is just 17 metres from the pipeline and the elementary school is about 100 metres away. Although silence is said to be golden — and in this case it probably is — it’s not helping the kids.

David Simms

Clearwater, B.C.

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