By: Aliocha Perriard-Abdoh

Local residents rallied against the expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain tank farm yesterday at the base of Burnaby Mountain in front of a local branch of the federal public safety office. The protest called a ‘die-in’ featured members of the protest lying in chalk outlines on the ground to bring attention to what they say are unacceptable risks associated with the project.

The protesters delivered a letter addressed to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale expressing their concerns about the potential for a disaster at the tank farm that could result from a fire or explosion.

“We’re basically just calling on Minister Goodale to do his job,” said Ruth Walmsley, one of the event organizers.

The protesters staged a ‘die-in’ to draw attention to the risks associated with the expansion of the Kinder Morgan tank farm. (Aliocha Perriard-Abdoh / The Peak)

The expansion of the tank farm located on the side of Burnaby Mountain near the Simon Fraser University campus is part of a larger project that will see the twinning of an existing pipeline carrying oil from Alberta to the coastal marine terminal in Burnaby. The number of tanks on the premises will double and a new pipeline connecting the facility to the marine terminal will tunnel through the mountain.

The Peak recently reported that construction has started at the nearby marine terminal though the work scheduled for last month at the tank farm is not yet underway.

Read: Kinder Morgan gears up for tank farm construction

After a period of chants and speeches, the protesters left the letter addressed to Minister Goodale at the regional office. The protest was coordinated by Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion as well as 350 Vancouver, which is a global organization dedicated to tackling climate change.

Walmsley commented that she was pleased with the turnout for the event and noted that the project posed a risk to Simon Fraser University as the only entrance to the campus is directly beside the facility.  

The tank farm is located just below the intersection that provides access to the Simon Fraser University campus. (Google Maps)

“Two major roads intersect a mere couple of meters from a [tank farm]. There are tons of other countries in which such a project would never be approved,” said Walmsley.

The letter calls for a safety analysis of the tank farm expansion made available to the public, as well as a response strategy for all those within the community who live in high-risk areas, and a report on how Public Safety Canada intends to address any forthcoming incidents.

“What’s most striking is that they want to follow through with the project even though they are completely unprepared in the events of a fire, spill, or explosion,” said Dave Lowey, a local resident. “The fire department isn’t equipped to handle these incidents either due to the air’s toxicity.”

A 2015 analysis by the Burnaby fire department concluded that the tank farm was “not the appropriate location” to expand due to the difficulties in extinguishing a fire or responding to another emergency at the location which could include toxic smoke plumes such as the release of sulphur or flammable gases.

A letter for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale signed by local residents was left at the regional office. (Aliocha Perriard-Abdoh / The Peak)

SFU is also concerned about the risk to people on campus and in the neighbouring urban community UniverCity after a report it commissioned last year found that a disaster at the facility could block the only access to the campus.

It is not just the tank farm that is concerning local residents, but also the increased tanker traffic from the Kinder Morgan marine terminal adjacent to the mountain.

“My [primary] concern is with the oil tankers carrying bitumen oil,” said protester Thomas Chan, citing that bitumen crude oil, one of the crude products transported in the existing pipeline, will sink faster if there is a spill on the water. “In the event of a spill, we could see the entire coastline of BC being destroyed.”

The latest protest is not the end for those who are determined to not let the project proceed. Vancouver 350 is planning a flotilla on October 28, which will include protesters on floats and kayaks as well as some on land, with the aim of disrupting Kinder Morgan activities and ensuring that their concerns are heard.