The National Energy Board says that more than 5,000 cubic metres of contaminated soil have been trucked out of the Coquihalla Canyon since a pipeline spill last summer, leading a critic to believe the spill was much larger than reported.
The volume reported by the NEB would represent removal of almost 600 truckloads of contaminated material from the site.
Patrick Smyth, business unit leader with the NEB in Calgary, cited the figure in an email to pipeline critic David Ellis.
Ellis questioned the delay in releasing the figure.
“The volume says the spill was greater and it’s been under-reported,” Ellis said. “There needs to be a full investigation of this and the NEB should make it public. What went on down there? A pinhole leak or a break?”
Kinder Morgan Canada shut down Trans Mountain pipeline last summer due to two spills that were described as minor at the time. In June, a spill occurred near Kingsvale, south of Merritt, followed by a second in the canyon two weeks later.
As a result, Kinder Morgan set about repairing the leaks and remediating the sites. All of the contaminated soil was trucked to the Tervita Corporation in Richmond.
A hydrostatic pressure test — in which water is pumped through the pipeline at pressures exceeding operational levels — was performed along a 35-kilometre stretch of the pipeline over Thanksgiving.
Kinder Morgan said the test was successful. Followup repairs have continued since then, although the 60-year-old pipeline has been operating at 80 per cent pressure, based on an NEB restriction, since then.
The company has said the Coquihalla spill, greater than the Kingsvale one, released 20 to 25 barrels of oil, which it also categorized as a small spill. There were no safety, health or environmental risks associated with the spill, it said.
Kinder Morgan Canada officials could not be reached Thursday.
While the NEB monitors spill response and remediation, requiring 100 per cent restoration of the land, there have been no inspectors on site recently.
Ellis, who has been acting as a public watchdog along the Trans Mountain pipeline since last summer, has attempted to visit the canyon spill site via the Trans Canada Trail, which follows the pipeline right-of-way, but has been repeatedly turned away by security guards. That’s only made him more suspicious.
He’s concerned that a section of the pipeline in the lower canyon between Portia and Hope remains untested and vulnerable due to its age. A spill would jeopardize the river, a tributary of the Fraser.
“They (the NEB) should not, under any circumstances, allow them to go back to 100 per cent. They should have to prove the case.”