Student union warns one in 2,000 chance of fire at tank farm

The decision to expand the tank farm (which is less than a kilometer from Convocation Mall) will come on or before December 19.

“We celebrated our 50th anniversary last year, of SFU, and I feel that if this expansion goes ahead, SFU’s not going to be around, or at least it won’t be the same place, when they go to celebrate their 100th year anniversary.”

These are the words of Grayson Barke, council representative for the Environmental Resource Student Union and Burnaby Mountain resident, who expressed his concern over the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion project. He was explaining the potential expansion of the tank farm on Burnaby Mountain if the project is approved, and the dangers it could pose to SFU and the safety of students, staff, and faculty.

The Kinder Morgan expansion approval process has been an ongoing controversy throughout Burnaby and the province. A decision as to its approval will be made on or before December 19.

The Peak spoke with Barke, who explained that “The bottom line is that there is a petrochemical storage facility next to the campus,” and if the expansion is to take place, “it means some of the storage tanks are going to be closer to the campus and closer to the access roads.

“One of the most comprehensive reports has said that the risk of something terrible happening will go from one in one million to one in 2,000 after this expansion is done.”

Barke’s research consults a report prepared on behalf of the City of Burnaby by Dr. Ivan Vince, an expert on tank farm-related hazards. Barke stressed, from this report, “that in [Dr. Vince’s] expert opinion, this project would not be approved in the UK or in the EU because it does not meet their safety standard, we have different standards in Canada obviously, but maybe they are not where they need to be.”

Barke approached the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) on September 30 at their Annual General Meeting asking for the support of the SFSS in highlighting the potential safety risk that Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby campus will be exposed to if the expansion is approved.

He then presented a formal presentation at the SFSS Board Meeting on October 7, showcasing the extensive research that expresses the increased risk posed to Simon Fraser University and Burnaby Mountain residents following the tripled capacity of the tank farm located on the south slope of Burnaby Mountain.

“My goal is to number one, make sure everyone is informed. Number two, collectively decide on a course of action to prevent these risks from occurring, or at least be involved at every step of the way to ensure that student safety needs are met.”

Barke presented this information to the SFSS because he believes that more students should be aware of the tank farm and its connection to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion.

Christine Dyson, VP external for the SFSS, said that they were concerned with the safety risks the project poses. She said that the SFSS could potentially end up hosting an event to help raise awareness of what is going on.

“In terms of making sure that students know about the risk, I would agree that students should know,” she said. “At this point in time, I have been talking with Grayson and I am going to follow up with him, but one of the things we are talking about is having a forum for students to come voice their concerns about the risks.”

Since the news was brought to the SFSS so recently, there are no set plans on when or where this forum could take place, but it is something they are looking into.

Dyson, who was the environment representative on the Board of Directors last year, said that she believes the project will pass.

“Personally, I have my doubts that it wouldn’t pass. I think it will pass. Trudeau did make it a mandate when he ran that this would be something that wouldn’t happen and they would look into it, and I think having the consultation process this summer was a step in the right direction. I would be really excited if that did have an impact and the project wouldn’t go through,” she said.

“But at the same point in time, with how the current government has been functioning and the fact that the [National Energy Board] did approve it, it has me a little bit hesitant that it will be stopped.”

The Peak reached out to chief safety and risk officer Mark LaLonde for comment. He said that, “SFU’s position remains that we view [this] as unacceptable, any expansion that would result in an increased risk to the health and safety of the SFU community.”

For Barke, the risk is too great if the project is approved. “I am going to be leaving Simon Fraser University,” he said. “I am going to be moving away and I am going to be staying away from North Burnaby.”