What Happened

On May 6, 2009, a contractor performing maintenance work on a Trans Mountain storage tank experienced a failure on a piece of pumping equipment resulting in the release of 305 m3 of crude oil from Tank 82 at the Trans Mountain Burnaby Terminal.

Most of the oil released was held in the Tank 82 containment area (this is the dyked, lined area around each tank that is required by engineering design codes as a precaution should there be a spill from a tank).However, a small volume of oil entered the groundwater suppression system and ended up in the third-level of safety protection (tertiary retention area) located in the southwest corner of the site. All of the oil released from the equipment failure was retained on Trans Mountain property.

The spill affected soil and ground water in the vicinity of the tank bay, as well as sediment, water and wildlife in the tertiary retention area. A total of 20 birds (mallard ducks) were directly affected due to exposure to the oil, rehabilitation was not possible for 16 of these. Additionally, 25 amphibians were treated for oil exposure and released. The impacted animals are common to the area and have stable populations. Long-term chronic effects were minimized by relocating larval amphibians to other nearby lakes and ponds and remediation of the spill site.

Cleanup and Remediation

During the emergency phase (right after the spill), Trans Mountain emergency teams and contractors used weirs, booms and absorbent pads to contain the oil. The oil was collected by vacuum truck and either placed back into on-site storage tanks or disposed of at appropriate waste disposal facilities. Trans Mountain captured and rehabilitated to the extent possible any affected wildlife. The company also implemented a wildlife deterrent program to further prevent wildlife from coming into contact with the oil during cleanup.

The emergency phase ended on May 17, 2009, 11 days after the equipment failed. An investigation of soil and groundwater impacts, followed by a remediation program, was successful in cleaning up the remaining oil and contaminated soils. Development of the remediation program was a joint effort with the City of Burnaby, the BC Ministry of Environment, Fraser Health and the National Energy Board. The remediation goals considered the health and safety of on-site workers and off-site residents, and environmental effects on vegetation and wildlife. 

During remediation, petroleum-impacted soil and groundwater were removed from the areas around Tank 82 and disposed of at waste disposal facilities. The integrity of the groundwater suppression system was confirmed and cleaned. After the remediation, sampling showed applicable environmental quality criteria were met according to the endpoints identified in the remediation program. Additionally, a long-term monitoring program has been established to further monitor groundwater conditions in the area of the release.

Preventing Future Issues

After the equipment failure in 2009, Trans Mountain reviewed all tank containment areas along the entire pipeline system. Modifications were made where required to ensure the integrity of all groundwater suppression systems in the event of a leak, and that all tank bays provided the protection necessary for the containment of a potential spill.