Downtown pipeline meeting prompts questions on maintenance, emergency planning

Burlington city hallMany thanks to the two dozen residents who attended last week’s public meeting to discuss the fuel pipeline that runs through downtown Burlington, from the beach strip and along Elgin Street and the Centennial Bikeway.

The pipeline is marked with yellow posts.

Thanks also to representatives from TransNorthern Pipeline, the Burlington Fire Department and the Transportation Safety Board for attending and explaining their role in prevention and response in an emergency.

Residents raised concerns about the age of the pipeline (61 years), and were told that sections of the pipeline have been repaired or completely replaced. We have asked for additional information on how much of the pipeline is new.

There were also questions about pipeline monitoring; TransNorthern said they regularly review the pipeline for leaks using flyovers, visits, and remote monitoring, and their technology to catch leaks is regularly improving. Residents noted that efforts failed to catch a previous leak into Bronte Creek which has spilled tens of thousands of litres of gas into the creek.

Residents also wanted to know about emergency response. The fire department said they are in regular contact with pipeline companies to review emergency plans, and occasionally conduct drills. Residents have asked whether a drill could be conducted on the downtown line.

For some, the meeting is the first knowledge they had of a pipeline in downtown Burlington. There was agreement that a public pipeline meeting should be held on a regular basis, whether annually or every two years, or even once a council term.


See the map of the downtown pipeline, and review presentations from the public meeting here

Read the Burlington Post article here

My Take: I want to thank members of the downtown business community who first asked for a public meeting on pipelines, and appreciate the questions and concerns raised by residents. I’ve also received additional information following the meeting from residents, which is very helpful in understanding the impact of having a pipeline downtown, and ensuring residents are safe. We will do this again in the next term of council, with additional information and answers to questions that have come in since the meeting.

Your Take: Do you have questions or concerns about the downtown pipeline? Do you support a regular public meeting? Leave a comment below.

Written by Marianne Meed Ward

A Better Burlington began in 2006 after my neighbours said they felt left out of city decisions, learning about them only after they’d been made.

As journalist for 22 years, I thought “I can do something about that” and a website and newsletter were born. They’ve taken various forms and names over the years, but the intent remains: To let you know what’s happening at City Hall before decisions are made, so you can influence outcomes for A Better Burlington.

The best decisions are made when elected representatives tap the wisdom of our community members, and welcome many different perspectives.This site allows residents to comment and debate with each other; our Commenting Guidelines established in 2016 aim to keep debate respectful.

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  1. In 2010, a series of fatigue cracks beginning in 2009 led the federal regulator, the National Energy Board (NEB), to issue a Safety Order which depressurized the TNPI system to 800 psi from 1200 psi. As a result, Trans Northern has a deadline of Aug 29 2014 to complete an integrity management program update for it’s system. One local event from Mar 16 2010 at Bronte Creek in Oakville detected a gasoline leak from a Trans Northern pipeline with 23,760 estimated gallons spilled. Via a consultant, TNPI will propose to the NEB, that defect indications less than 75 % of the wall thickness are to be considered acceptable for a period, while engineering review is undertaken. See the reference at page 18 of
    Analysis of all the information suggests that TNPI’s pipeline from Montreal to Oakville has operated beyond it’s service life. The section of line in downtown Burlington will reach that same point before or about 2036. That may make some feel overly concerned. Meanwhile, a chemical spill of petroleum product at the Humber River in Toronto has gone unidentified since May 31. The spill happens to be in a pipeline corridor with 4 pipelines traversing the Humber River. See the video at and see what you think the source may be. Some Canadian pipeline systems need more attention before a significant public safety event occurs, or more significant environmental events like at Bronte Creek happen. At the latter, after $ 23,000,000 in remediation costs included in your gasoline price, approved by the NEB, the cleanup will continue for several more years.

  2. I’m not overly concerned about the pipeline. Sixty-one years and most people are not aware of it would seem to indicate to me that it is well managed from a maintenance point. Our emergency services are aware of it and say they are capable of dealing with any incident. I’m not so naive as to be believe that we live in a riskless society and accidents will not happen – they will but the company is taking reasonable precautions and appears to be adhering to industry standards.
    I don’t see the value or purpose of periodic public meetings unless the city is prepared to hire technical personnel to review the maintenance history and procedures of the work done on the line. Without this expertise, you just create speculation and hysteria. Perhaps emergency services should have access to the maintenance reports but even they would be hard pressed to determine if the work done meets standard. At some point you need to trust that the company is doing the right thing otherwise be prepared to tear up every buried utility line in the city.

What's your take?

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