How to stay safe on Canada’s pipeline rights-of-way

Canada’s pipeline ‘rights-of-way’ (ROW) cross many thousands of private properties and public lands across the country.

You’ll find them in a variety of locations– from river crossings to fields to urban regions, so not all ROWs look the same. That’s why it’s important that everyone knows where they are. And, it’s critical for everyone to follow the rules for their own safety, the safety of their neighbours, and the security of our energy supply.

 

How do pipeline companies keep ROWs safe?

 

Pipeline ROWs are strips of land under which pipelines are buried. They’re generally left clear to allow aerial and ground access to inspect, maintain, repair and do tests on the pipeline.

Pipeline markers at road, railway and river crossings, boundaries of properties and prominent points along the route, make sure ROWs are recognizable and indicate the general location of the pipeline. Pipeline markers provide information on the company, the type of pipeline, and they also have an emergency contact number. But pipeline markers don’t show the exact location of the pipeline. And that’s why everyone must place a locate request through their provincial or territorial One-Call system if they’re planning a project that will disturb the ground (e.g. planting and digging).

Examples of pipeline markers at road, railway and river crossings, boundaries of properties and prominent points along the route.

 

In addition to installing pipeline markers, operators also engage with landowners and communities and use other public information tools to make sure everyone in the area knows where pipelines are located.

“Pipelines are safe, but third-party damage puts people and communities at risk,” says Tasha Cadotte, Manager, Communications and Media Affairs at Pembina Pipeline Corporation. “So, we try to reach anyone who’s living or working in the vicinity of a pipeline right-of-way to let them know the pipeline is there. And we use every forum to promote the One-Call process.”

 

How to be safe on a pipeline ROW

 

In many communities, pathways follow the pipeline ROWs. To the untrained eye, those pathways can simply look like large green spaces. So, it’s easy to ignore the rules and signs.

Used appropriately, pathways on ROWS can be great for light recreational use, such as riding bikes and horses, or cross-country skiing and driving snowmobiles in the winter. “We work with snowmobile clubs to teach snowmobile users to identify signs and avoid safety infractions,” says Cadotte. “Vehicles can do damage to pipelines, so they need Pembina’s consent to use the ROW.”

One caution– ROWs are often on private land, so people need to respect landowners’ property rights by obeying signs and fences.

 

To stay safe, here are three activities to avoid on a pipeline ROW:

  1. Camping and open fires. Because pipelines carry fuel, any open fire on the pipeline right-of-way puts people and communities at risk.
  2. Driving ATVs. An ATV can displace the dirt around the pipeline, impact the depth of cover for the pipeline and create soil erosion on the ROW.
  3. Hunting animals. Using the ROW to spot and hunt animals can put both the above- and below-ground infrastructure at risk. Stray bullets can have dire consequences if they strike a pipeline.

Canada’s pipelines are critical infrastructure for the safe delivery of the energy all Canadians need. CEPA and its members are committed to protecting the safety of our pipeline systems. This summer when you’re out enjoying the local pathway or greenspace keep an eye out for pipeline markers, and remember to Click Before You Dig if you plan to disturb the ground in your own backyard.

Check out some of our other Dig Safe blogs: