Enbridge has numerous permits in Ontario similar to those that company personnel claim they were surprised to learn are also required at the major pipeline hub and tank farm in Westover. And the decades–late application for an air pollution permit the company has now belatedly filed doesn’t mention the potentially dangerous emissions that could be released if the company obtains approval to ship diluted bitumen across the province.
The lack of required permits was exposed in a June posting on the provincial Environmental Registry that allows the public to comment on approval decisions. Ministry of the Environment (MOE) background documents filed in conjunction with that posting also disclose that the Flamborough facility dumps contaminated storm runoff into a farmer’s field that drains into the ecologically sensitive Beverly Swamp – the headwaters for Hamilton’s largest watershed.
Enbridge says it samples the pond before every fifth discharge. The company supplied its recent records to the MOE which determined that some exceeded regulatory limits for alkalinity and sediment loading. Enbridge is promising to apply by this week for a stormwater management permit.
MOE permits are mandated by the province’s Environmental Protection Act for all industrial activities that may release contaminants to the environment to ensure “high standards for environmental protection, human health protection and resource conservation.”
It remains unclear how Enbridge has operated for decades without the permits and the Ministry is not offering an explanation. The company responded to media coverage of the missing permits by pointing out that the Ministry hadn’t demanded them until this spring and that Enbridge hadn’t applied earlier because it operates under federal regulation overseen by the National Energy Board.
“That’s the regulator that oversees our business,” Enbridge spokesperson Ken Hall told the CBC. “If the two conflict, the NEB takes precedence.”
A search of the Registry shows applications from Enbridge as far back as 1999 for air emissions for pipeline facilities in Sarnia, Mississauga and Milton, and over 40 permits for its sister operations as Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc.
There’s even a permit applied for and issued in 1999 for air emissions at the Westover site. It regulated “the venting of nitrogen to the atmosphere during filling of Line 9”.
The Westover facility also has a Ministry permit to take water that dates back to 2006 to fill a fire protection pond, providing further confirmation that the local MOE office which issued it has been aware of the existence of the Westover facility for many years.
The June application is to cover air emissions from “six external floating–roof storage tanks, two domed external floating–roof storage tanks, three traps and launchers associated with occasional pipeline pigging operations, one fire water pump, one welding exhaust hood used for maintenance purposes only, various portable generator units, fuel storage for vehicle fuelling and various propane–fired heating units. Emissions to the atmosphere from this facility include hexanes, benzene, reduced sulphur, particulate matters products of combustion and noise.”
While Enbridge is confident of approval, the application doesn’t mention its plans to ship bitumen through the pipeline feeding the Westover facilities. The unrefined tar sands product has to be diluted in order to make it flow, and when the major pipeline rupture took place near the Kalamazoo River in July 2010, those dilutants evaporated and sickened residents, forcing permanent relocation of 150 families.
Cleanup of that spill is continuing. In the meantime, Enbridge has been cited by Michigan regulators for failing to report another oil release that occurred during testing of a replacement for the pipeline section that ruptured in 2010.
The public can make comments on the Enbridge air emissions application until August 5. V