Chilliwack resident worried pipeline could be in her backyard

City’s request to put Trans Mountain project further from aquifer affects dozens of homes

While city hall and water protection activists prefer the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion project run through the BC Hydro right-of-way in Sardis, some neighbours fear yet another utility in their back yard.

Living adjacent to tall electrical transmission towers may not appeal to everyone, but Tove Olsen said she and her husband Barry Johnson bought their house on Roseberry Road specifically because of the wide open spaces behind them.

“I’m not willing to accept another thing in my backyard,” Olsen said, adding that other neighbours have similar concerns. “One right-of-way after another? Now come on.”

The National Energy Board (NEB) announced recently it has ordered a public hearing in early 2018 to consider local concerns over the proximity to the aquifer of a specific 1.8-kilometre stretch of the proposed route of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project (TMEX).

READ: NEB orders public hearing to discuss pipeline routing and the Chilliwack aquifer

That route, preferred by Trans Mountain, is the ROW of the existing pipeline, which runs through backyards on Montcalm Road and the homes across the street from Olsen on Roseberry Road.

In letters to the NEB, city hall has complained the current route is too close to four wells within the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer, the main source of drinking water for local residents. In an Aug. 14 letter, Mayor Sharon Gaetz said the wells are “close enough to the existing pipeline route to be of concern.”

The route approved by the NEB follows the BC Hydro ROW thereby avoiding the Watson elementary school yard and is further away from two of the city’s wells.

Trans Mountain applied for a “realignment” to put the TMEX in the current ROW. This because BC Hydro engineers said that with the required separation needed, the new ROW would be very close to backyards of homes, such as Olsen’s. If the new pipeline is put on the southern edge of the hydro ROW it will be on or near the backyards of 15 homes on the north side of Roseberry and the front yards of a further 19 homes on Balmoral Avenue.

“The city is trying to correct a problem created in 1953,” Olsen said, referring to when the original Trans Mountain oil pipeline was constructed. “Why was that allowed to be put there in 1953?”

Another concern of Olsen’s is that while the NEB ordered a public hearing in 2018 to discuss Trans Mountain’s realignment request, the deadline to submit an application to participate is next week.

“I don’t think they’ve given people enough time to prepare.”

Applications to participate in the hearing in Chilliwack in 2018 are available now on the NEB’s website. The deadline to apply to participate is Sept. 21. Funding is also available to hearing participants. More information on the Participant Funding Program and how to access it can be found on the NEB’s website.

Also announced Aug. 31 by the NEB was the detailed route hearings set to begin in November and December for locations in Alberta. Hearings for B.C. segments will begin in 2018.

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