MONTRÉAL, QC: NEW MARINE FUELING PROJECT COULD HAVE SERIOUS IMPACTS ON DRINKING WATER IN GREATER MONTRÉAL REGION
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By Cori Marshall
Public interest, water security and fossil fuel transportation have seemingly intersected in a maritime terminal and pipeline project that would be situated in the east end of Montréal. The Corporation Internationale d'Avitaillement de Montréal (CIAM) is proposing constructing a new fuel supply terminal in Montréal-Est to supply the Pierre-Elliot-Trudeau airport in Montréal, MacDonald-Cartier in Ottawa, and Pearson airport in Toronto. The new terminal would be situated along the St. Lawrence River and would aim to facilitate refuelling in the three cities.
The project is raising concerns about air quality, public health, property value, and the security of the regions' drinking water. Many community groups are calling for the outright rejection of the project.
The proposed project consists of several different elements. According to the description of the project, there would be "a marine terminal with a transfer dock and eight tanks with a total storage capacity of approximately 164 million litres." That's on site one.
Site two is "a tank car and tank truck loading facility." There would be a connection line between the two sites, and a 7 km pipeline to connect to an existing pipeline which is operated by Trans-Northern Pipelines Inc.
The Bureau d'audiences publique sur l'environnement (BAPE) has held three public consultations to date, and there was no shortage of opposition the CIAM's proposal.
Action Environnement Basses-Laurentides (AEBL) has taken a position against the project and is demanding its rejection due to the risk of contaminating the water. The group's memoire presented to the BAPE underlines a major problem, "the majority of (water) purification stations are not equipped with sensors to detect the presence of hydrocarbons and are not designed to eliminate them."
In effect there is no plan B should the jet fuel get into the water table and aquifers. If there is a spill and it does contaminate the drinking water in the Greater Montréal Region "you must interrupt the water supply (i.e. close the plants) and find alternative water sources."
The risk and effects will be felt in Québec though most of the fuel will be used in Ontario.
Lucie Massé, from AEBL, told WaterToday that the existing "Trans-Northern pipeline was constructed in 1952, and crosses Montréal, Laval, (Municipalité régionale de comté) MRC Thérèse de Blainville, Deux-Montagnes, and Vaudreuil-Soulanges."
The fuel would arrive in Montréal-Est by tanker on the river. Massé explained that to arrive at the Pierre-Elliot-Trudeau airport the kerosene would be "transported by pipeline." This would be the 7 km of new pipeline connected to the over 60-year-old infrastructure. To supply the airport on the island, the kerosene would have to cross Rivières-des-Prairie two times once north and once south.
Massé added that in the event the pipeline is shut down "the only means the promoter has to transport the fuel to the airport (in Montréal) would be by tanker truck." For Ottawa it would be the same, the kerosene would be transported overland by truck."
The environmental impact study presented by CIAM shows how the fuel will be transported two ways from Montréal-Est to Toronto. Most of the kerosene travelling to Toronto will be traveling by rail in tanker cars. The study states that "approximately 9 [self-propelled] barges per year" will travel to Hamilton.
There will be "between 7,300 to 10,950 tanker-cars" that will leave the Montréal-Est Terminal for Pearson airport.
The AEBL memoire points out that CIAM only presented a worst case scenario regarding a fire on the site. The memoire highlights scenarios that were missing such as "earthquake, bombing, and flood."
Concerns are not only centred on the risk to drinking water, but they are also much broader. Vincent Marchione, President of the Comité de vigilance environnementale de l'Est de Montréal (CVEEM), said that "there is no economic value for Montréal-Est."
The project would create 700 temporary jobs in the construction phase, and only 20 permanent jobs once the facility is in operation.
Marchione added, "every time heavy industry installs in the area, property values are affected." He gave the example of a "bungalow being $50 to $100 thousand less in Pointe-aux-Trembles than in Rosemont."
The CVEEM memoire points out that residents in the east of Montréal suffer more illness, close to 1500 per 10 thousand people compared to just under 1300 per 10 thousand for Montréal as a whole.
The project may have an impact on air quality and risks "adding dust and emissions" to the air. Marchione said that the project is "not worth the risk" and "should not be in an urban setting."
CVEEM has asked for modifications, suggesting that a "buffer zone" separate the population from industry. Marchione said that CIAM was not willing to alter its plans and that he had the feeling the consultation was "to accept something that had already been decided."
This sentiment was echoed by Lucie Massé saying that "CIAM has not budged on iota" on their plans.
Équiterre has also called for the outright rejection of CIAM's terminal project. Geneviève Puskas, Advisor - Climate Change and Energy for the organization, said the reason behind this is "if we are to limit temperature rise to 2C, or even 1.5, we really don't have much room for more greenhouse gas emissions." She added "considering the fact that we are already getting way beyond the 2 degrees we believe it is time to end fossil fuel projects, or any increase in its transport or infrastructure."
This project is to address the rising demand for air transportation. Puskas explained that "one of every five planes leaving Montréal is heading to Toronto, and one in five leaving Toronto is travelling less than 600 km away," and Équiterre suggests that "developing efficient cost-effective ground transportation would reduce emissions from aviation."
Équiterre has raised major concerns with Trans-Northern Pipelines' track record. Puskas said that "60 years for a pipeline is usually the max. They are worried, there have been instances where citizens have seen the pipeline come out of the ground."
Puskas underlined that "there have been 83 different incidents since 2004, they could be spills, though most have been overpressure incidents."
Trans-Northern "can only operate under a certain pressure," Puskas said, "the National Energy Board has recorded that Trans-Northern has been overpressure and has issued a number of warnings."
It is not only environmental groups sounding the alarm over the project. The MRC Vaudreuil-Soulanges said in their memoire "any project related to the transportation of oil by pipeline increases risks related to the supply of drinking water for Québec municipalities, (...) these risks are likely to create a serious provincial health and social crisis."
The Ville de Montréal-Est has positioned itself in favour of the project. With the list of concerns that have been brought to the table, we contacted the municipality to ask about their position. Montréal-Est declined to comment at this time.
CIAM's terminal and storage facility project has raised a tremendous amount of concern and has raised many questions. The potential risks attached to the project are serious and must be taken into consideration.