The company that owns a ruptured pipeline in North Burnaby, Kinder Morgan Canada Inc., was required to have an inspector on-site during construction. On July 24, a crew with B. Cusano Contracting Inc. punctured the pipeline beneath Inlet Drive near the corner of Barnet Highway and East Hastings Street, spewing crude oil 30 metres in the air for approximately 25 minutes, according to news reports.
Federal regulations set a 30-metre safety zone around pipelines; within that area, any construction needs prior approval from the pipeline operator, according to a statement on the Kinder Morgan Canada Web site (www.tmxproject.com/).
Kinder Morgan Canada, a subsidiary of Texas-based pipeline giant Kinder Morgan, cited guidelines published by the pipeline's previous owner, Terasen Inc., which it took over in 2005. The guidelines specify that an inspector "locates Pipeline(s) and inspects during Construction Activities in accordance with NEB [National Energy Board] Pipeline Crossing Regulations. Prior to any Construction within Terasen's Right-of-Way or Excavation within the 30m Safety Zone, a Terasen Inspector is to be on-site and all construction is to be carried out in accordance with the Inspector's direction and all applic?able conditions and legislation."
Philippe Reicher, a Kinder Morgan Canada spokesperson, told the Georgia Straight there is a "formal process" that needs to be followed before any construction is allowed within the federally set 30-metre safety zone. In a phone interview a few hours after the spill, Reicher was not yet able to give details on the circumstances behind the incident. The damaged pipeline is part of the Trans Mountain system, which transports crude oil and refined products from Alberta to terminals and refineries in the Greater Vancouver area and Washington state.
"The first thing we need to do is to contain the spill and make sure it doesn't have any impact on the public and on the environment," Reicher said. "And after that we start investigating and assessing the exact situation."
B. Cusano Contracting declined comment when contacted by the Straight. Shortly before Kinder Morgan took over Terasen in 2005, the Straight reported that the U.S. energy giant had racked up large fines in the U.S. for safety violations, including a gas explosion that killed five and injured four others in San Francisco's Bay Area in 2004.
The NEB's Pipeline Crossing Regulations state, among other things, that the pipeline operator must mark the location of pipes in the vicinity of a proposed facility or excavation at least every 10 metres along each pipe. In addition, the pipeline company shall "carry out such inspections as are necessary to ensure the continued safety of the pipeline during the period of excavation in the vicinity of a pipe and backfilling over a pipe".
Richard Kuprewicz, a Redwood, Washington–based pipeline consultant, told the Straight in a phone interview that Canada has some of the world's best regulations concerning activity on or near pipelines. "The Canadian system of preventing third-party damage to pipelines is fairly advanced compared to other countries like the U.S.," Kuprewicz told the Straight by phone. "Everybody is supposed to know what's going on. But when you have an event like this, something didn't go right between the operator of the pipeline and whoever is doing the at-risk activity. Somebody didn't do their job somewhere."
Kuprewicz said that often, the primary responsibility for an accident falls on the pipeline operator and secondarily on the company that punctured the pipeline. "Then it gets complicated," he said. "It's not a black-and-white issue. The court will determine the percentage of liability."
Burnaby councillor Nick Volkow told the Straight that he expects lawsuits to arise from the oil spill. But he claimed that the City has no "liability" for the accident, which resulted in some crude oil seeping into Burrard Inlet.
"It's a private contractor doing work for the City on a sewer replacement," Volkow said on July 25. "When it comes to the location and identifying where these pipelines are, that's the responsibility of the pipeline company."
North Burnaby resident Leonard Campeotto learned about the incident when he received a call from his wife. His wife's brother and sister-in-law live in a house that was coated with thick, black oil, he said, and they were among the residents evacuated and put into hotels by the City.
Campeotto visited the area on the night of July 24 and again the next morning. "We've lived here for about 20 years," he told the Straight. "It's a bit of a shock."