What Happened

On July 24, 2007, a backhoe operated by a third-party contractor accidentally ruptured the Trans Mountain pipeline carrying crude oil to the Westridge Martine Terminal, resulting in the release of crude oil onto Inlet Drive and the surrounding residential area in Burnaby BC. Some of the oil entered the storm drain system and was directly discharged into Burrard Inlet. Three general areas were affected by the spill: 

  • Residential area
  • Foreshore of Burrard Inlet
  • Kask Creek

Approximately 224 m3 of heavy synthetic crude oil blend was spilled, of which approximately 40 per cent of the oil entered the storm drain system and reached Burrard Inlet through shoreline storm outfalls, a submerged storm outfall, and Kask Creek. The main entrance point was a submerged storm drain outfall 100 metres west of the Trans Mountain Jetty (part of the Westridge Marine Terminal), where the oil floated to the surface.

Cleanup and Remediation

Approximately 95 per cent (210 m3) of the released oil was recovered. An estimated 5.5 mwas not recovered and was considered to be released to the marine environment. Ongoing monitoring of marine plant and animal life in the affected area has shown very good recovery from the spill.

Residential Area

At the time of this incident Kinder Morgan Canada (KMC) owned and operated the Trans Mountain Pipeline. A member of the public contacted the KMC central control centre on its emergency line within minutes of the line strike. KMC operations personnel in Edmonton, Burnaby and Westridge immediately began taking steps to shut down both the Westridge Crude Line and the nearby Jet Fuel pipeline.

The Burnaby Fire Department also received an alarm via 9-1-1 and arrived on scene to begin taking emergency measures to control and contain the spilled material, secure the site, control traffic and protect the public. The KMC Environmental, Health and Safety Co-ordinator took initial air quality readings and conducted a site safety briefing for two KMC personnel who had been dispatched to perform continuous air monitoring.

The Burnaby Fire Department and RCMP evacuated an estimated 225 people from the affected area following the incident. More than half of these people returned home the night of July 24. An estimated 101 evacuees belonging to 42 families spent the night of July 24 in accommodation other than their homes (friends, relatives, hotel or motel). The residents of the most heavily-oiled homes were housed in longer-term alternate accommodation arranged and funded by Kinder Morgan Canada.

In the days following the incident, an assessment of area properties classified eight residential properties as heavily oiled, 15 as moderately oiled and 21 as lightly oiled. All properties that were affected underwent restoration efforts to attempt to return them to an equivalent or better condition than existed before the spill. Extensive landscaping work was required on several properties and upgraded plantings were installed. One residence received extensive renovations to both its interior and exterior.

Foreshore of Burrard Inlet

Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC) responded to the spill within an hour and began booming marine areas within 45 minutes of oil being discharged through the shoreline storm water outfall. 

SCAT (Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Technique) was used to identify oiled shorelines, establish cleanup methods and set priorities. Recovery and rehabilitation of affected wildlife was performed through daily surveys for six weeks following the spill. 

Helicopter surveys of Burrard Inlet from Port Moody to Indian Arm and westward to First Narrows took place July 27 to August 2, and again on August 7 to identify distribution of oil slicks, patches and affected shoreline. Responders used this information to assign cleanup crews to specific areas. 

Ongoing shoreline cleanup took place between July 25 and September 5, with oil removed from 15,000 metres of shoreline, with the majority of spilled material concentrated in a 2,500-metre  strip between the Shell jetty and Barnet Marine Park.

Emergency phase cleanup techniques included: 

  • Booming—to contain oil around the release points and also exclusion booming to protect sensitive shorelines 
  • Skimmers and absorbent pads to remove oil 
  • Manual removal of tar balls, oily debris and oiled Fucus (a type of seaweed commonly found along rocky shorelines in the area)

Post-emergency phase cleanup efforts included:

  • Flushing of storm and sanitary sewers, catch basins and manholes with hot or cold water, or in some cases steam. The cleaning of sewers was verified by cameral inspection that followed. All completed in August 2007.

Post-emergency phase environmental work included:

  • Cleanup of two rocky shoreline areas at Westridge using a shoreline cleaning formula (August 2007)
  • Agitation (tilling) of intertidal sediment at Westridge (May 2008)
  • Agitation of sediment at the outlet of a submarine outfall of the Metro Vancouver storm sewer system, offshore from the Westridge Marine Terminal (February 2009).

A SCAT team composed of First Nations, Port Metro Vancouver and federal, provincial and municipal officials signed off that the shoreline cleanup met the pre-defined recovery end points. 

The endpoints included:

  • Approved remediation plan for high-use areas, public access shorelines, and sensitive cultural and archaeological resource areas was met in summer 2007. 
  • Industrial shorelines (except Westridge Marine Terminal) was met in spring 2008. 
  • Industrial shoreline at Westridge Marine Terminal was met following completion of additional remediation in May 2008.

A long-term monitoring program was developed after the July 2007 spill to monitor recovery of impacted areas, assess changes in levels of contaminants from the spilled oil in the marine environment and evaluate potential effects on marine organisms. The long-term monitoring program began in 2008 and will continue each year until all recovery endpoints in the marine environment are reached and stakeholders have signed off on the program. The monitoring results are evaluated each year to identify whether further remediation is needed. To date, five of the six components have met the recovery endpoints. The components that have been met are: water, intertidal sediment, crabs, subtidal sediment and fucus; there are residual levels of contamination in mussels that have not yet met the agreed upon endpoint levels. Monitoring continues on all components at the present time.

In 2007, two areas at Westridge and Barnet Marine Park were remediated by removal of oiled Fucus and associated biota (collection of organisms). Since 2008, recolonization has occurred. In 2009, 2010 and 2011, Fucus coverage at impacted sites has increased, and abundance and diversity of green and red algae, and invertebrates (barnacles, mussels, grazing molluscs, shoreline crabs) were greater at the impacted sites than at reference sites.

Kask Creek

Cleanup of Kask Creek began on July 28, 2007. Vacuum trucks were used to suction oil from the top and bottom of the creek. Controlled flushing of the creek five times with water helped remove any mobile oil downstream. Additional follow-up occurred on August 3, 2007 with removal of oiled vegetation and debris from the channel and flushing with hot water.

Further remediation included:

  • Flushing of storm drains leading to Kask Creek (late August 2007)
  • Replacement of an oiled culvert at a road crossing near the foreshore by City of Burnaby and removal of one cubic metre of soil and sediment from upstream of the rail line culvert (September 2007)
  • Identification and delineation of contaminated areas in October 2007 and June 2008 and remediation in August 2009. Remediation involved excavation of contaminated soils and sediment from a 65-metre section of creek and adjacent area with shovels and vacuum suction, backfilling of excavated areas with rip rap and cobbles, replacing removed alders at a 2:1 ratio, and hydroseeding and mulching to stabilize exposed soils

Long-term monitoring was not required for Kask Creek because remediation removed the hydrocarbons related to the incident and, therefore, the potential for any long-term effects. 

Further details about cleanup and remediation can be found in the Five-Year Summary of Cleanup and Effects report found here.

Preventing Future Issues

While third-party events are not always in the control of owners and operators of pipelines, damage prevention and public awareness of the pipeline is an important area of focus for Trans Mountain pipeline safety processes and personnel.

In response to the incident, Kinder Morgan made some fundamental changes to the field organization structure, with the formation of the Pipeline Protection Group, a group whose sole focus is on the protection of the pipeline. The Pipeline Protection Group is responsible for signage marking pipeline location, pipeline patrols and permitting for ground disturbance in proximity to the pipeline.

Following the incident, the Pipeline Protection Group added increased emphasis on promoting the use of BC One Call number (Call Before You Dig) and public and community awareness programs.

Additionally, the surveillance frequency in the Lower Mainland was increased, using both aerial and ground patrols.