Activist pulls back curtain to show Kinder Morgan pipeline flaws and Kinder Morgan questions his credentials

Close up photo of Trans Mountain pipeline by David Ellis
Kinder Morgan has quietly been removing some 5005 cubic metres of oil-contaminated soil from its Trans Mountain pipeline near Coquihalla Canyon, near Hope since June 28, according to the National Energy Board (NEB). "I think there's been more oil spilled than they're saying," Vancouver-based pipeline critic David Ellis said, about the reported 25-barrel figure. And while a Kinder Morgan representative told the Vancouver Observer there were "no Kinder Morgan-branded trucks" moving any contaminated soil, NEB spokesperson Rebecca Taylor confirmed that soil was indeed being removed, a good part of it "definitely directly contaminated". Oil-soaked soil biodegrades over time, but can harm vegetation at its roots and can be toxic to animals if ingested.

Ellis has photographed places where the pipeline was exposed and corroded and signs indicating where pipeline anomalies may be. A bookseller specializing in Western First Nations literature and a former fisheries planner, Ellis raised an alarm when he saw trucks moving soil to Tervita Corporation in Richmond, which specializes in disposal of industrial waste.

Questioning credentials and demanding answers

Ellis treks out on weekends to pipeline excavation sites (where security has received orders not to let him pass) and frequently sends the NEB inquiries accompanied by photos about the pipeline's condition. By his estimation, there are 35 recent urgent repair sites along the pipeline where the company performed hydrostatic testing in October. The Texas-based company's plans to twin the aging pipeline and expand capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels of oil per day, in his view, could place British Columbians at risk for a big spill, Ellis told the Vancouver Observer. 
Given that Coquihalla Canyon is a provincial park area teeming with wildlife (and only 40 kilometres from Hope), people should be relieved that Kinder Morgan has been removing the soil and replacing it. 
Except that four months and 600 truckloads later, the company is still taking out soil, and that leads him to believe something isn't right. Kinder Morgan spokesperson Andy Galarnyk insisted that "the large volume of soil removed (from Coquihalla Canyon) was not considered hazardous waste, but was removed to meet strict clean up criteria because of its location within a provincial park." The NEB agreed that its cleanup standards mean removal of soil until it is tested to be completely safe. Galarnyk added that Ellis "does does not have any experience or qualifications to comment on pipeline operations".

But the bookseller, who has a Masters in Science from UBC and extensively documents the pipeline around the Coquihalla and Kamloops, has raised questions that are getting harder to dismiss. 
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