What happens to the environment when a spill occurs?

No spill is acceptable. That’s why if a leak is detected, pipeline companies are prepared to respond immediately. Every operator has a comprehensive and precise strategy for managing any type of pipeline emergency to limit the impact to the environment.

This includes a regulator-approved emergency response plan, unique to each pipeline, so the operator has the specific information required to quickly stop the leak and thoroughly clean up the site.

The plan details all the necessary steps and decisions required to manage the emergency; it’s activated as soon as an emergency alert happens. CEPA members also have an agreement called the Mutual Emergency Assistance Agreement, to come to each other’s aid when called. When it comes to keeping the public and the environment safe, everyone works together.

Getting the pipeline shut down

Once the leak detection systems alert that there is a spill, the pipeline is shut down. Valves located at key points in the line quickly shut off the pipeline.

Launching the emergency response plan

At this point, the emergency response plan is activated. These plans are designed to address a wide range of emergency scenarios, identify potential hazards to the public and the environment, and outline the process of handling the emergency.

Pipeline operators use an internationally recognized system, called an Incident Command System (ICS), to control and coordinate emergency response. The ICS is typically set in place within 120 minutes. Keeping the public aware is a key priority, so announcements will be made as soon as the details of the incident can be confirmed.

The ICS system is used by most first responders and emergency organizations throughout Canada, United States, United Kingdom, and by the United Nations.

Mobilizing emergency crews

First responders from the pipeline company arrive at the site as soon as possible to repair the cause of the leak and start clean-up. All CEPA members have trained crews standing by to respond quickly with Oil Spill Containment and Recovery equipment (called OSCAR units for short) to contain the leak. Pipeline companies also train and work with municipal first responders to ensure they are prepared to assist in a pipeline emergency.

 

Cleaning up and repairing the damage

Shortly after emergency crews arrive, more specially trained crews and emergency equipment arrive to clean up the spill and begin returning the area to its previous state. These clean-up specialists, biologists and environmental experts work as long as it takes to clean up the area.

Researching the cause and resolving the issue

Regulators work with the pipeline operator to determine the cause of the incident. Equipment and operating procedures will be adjusted to reduce the chance of it happening again. As transmission pipelines are one of the most highly-regulated industries in the world, incidents are carefully analyzed to learn for the future.

Learning from the incident

Key learnings are shared with all CEPA members as well as the public, to ensure everything possible is done to avoid similar incidents in the future.

Being liable for the spill

Major Canadian pipeline companies are subject to regulation that makes them liable for the complete cost of a pipeline spill, no matter whose fault the spill was. The Pipeline Safety Act clearly outlines that major transmission pipeline operators must have a minimum of a billion dollars in financial capacity to handle a spill. If the company is at fault, they have unlimited liability until the area is cleaned-up, and they may be required to pay clean-up and recovery costs to affected stakeholders and communities.

What happens when a spill occurs at a water crossing?

When a leak is detected on a pipeline that goes through a waterway, emergency response plans are activated to control the spill and limit the damage. The plan includes information about the specific waterway – including currents, spring run-off and habitats.

Getting the pipeline shut down

Once the leak detection systems alert that there is a spill, valves located on either side of the waterway are closed to shut down the segment of the pipe that’s in water.

Responding to the spill

First responders from the pipeline company quickly arrive at the site to repair the cause of the leak and start clean-up. The goal is to limit the damage using specialized equipment like spill containment booms and skimmers. The public will be notified as soon as the details of the incident can be confirmed.

Taking responsibility

As an industry, we take our responsibility for protecting our waterways seriously. Our pipelines have a world-class safety record, but we are committed to continuous improvement to make our operations even safer. And when incidents do happen, the member company is 100 per cent responsible for response, clean up and restoration. For example, when ground movement caused Enbridge’s line 37 to buckle in 2013, some of the product leaked into a small creek and lake. The company brought in 200 personnel to remove the product from the area, cleaned over 3,000 cubic metres of oily water in a portable treatment plant and complete a comprehensive response and remediation plan, working alongside regulatory agencies and local stakeholders. The incident was resolved in 37 days.

Cleaning up the waterway

Shortly after the emergency crews arrive, clean-up specialists, biologists and hydrology experts arrive to work as long as it takes to clean up the spill.

Being liable for the spill

Major Canadian pipeline companies are subject to regulation that makes them absolutely liable for the complete cost of a pipeline spill, no matter whose fault the spill was. The Pipeline Safety Act clearly outlines that major transmission pipeline operators must have a minimum of a billion dollars in financial capacity to handle a spill. If the company is at fault, they have unlimited liability until the area is cleaned-up, and they may be required to pay clean-up and recovery costs to affected stakeholders and communities.

How do pipeline operators protect wildlife when a spill occurs?

When a leak is detected, emergency response plans are activated to control the spill and limit the damage, and that includes any harm to wildlife.

Preventing wildlife from getting close

Emergency crews arrive at the site as fast as possible with the equipment to quickly contain the site so wildlife cannot enter the area. For example, air cannons are used to keep birds away, and visual deterrents including shiny reflectors, flags, balloons, kites, smoke, scarecrows, and model predators are used. In addition, fencing is erected and crews will patrol the area to keep wildlife from entering.

Caring for impacted wildlife

Whenever possible, any wildlife that has been harmed will be carefully cleaned and released back into the wild. Wildlife experts will also monitor the area as the clean-up progresses to ensure no long-term damage occurs.

Taking responsibility

As an industry, we take our responsibility for protecting wildlife seriously. Our pipelines have a world-class safety record, but we are committed to continuous improvement to make our operations even safer. And when incidents do happen, the member company is 100 per cent responsible for response, clean up and restoration. For example, during an incident, CEPA members may deploy wildlife deterrents, fence off the affected area, establish a site-specific wildlife management strategy and conduct extensive aerial and ground-based wildlife surveys.

Being liable for the spill

Major Canadian pipeline companies are subject to regulation that makes them absolutely liable for the complete cost of a pipeline spill, no matter whose fault the spill was. The Pipeline Safety Act clearly outlines that major transmission pipeline operators must have a minimum of a billion dollars in financial capacity to handle a spill. If the company is at fault, they have unlimited liability until the area is cleaned-up, and they may be required to pay clean-up and recovery costs to affected stakeholders and communities.

What happens to protect vegetation when a spill occurs?

When a leak is detected, emergency response plans are activated to control the spill and limit the damage, and that includes the damage to vegetation.

Preventing further damage

Emergency crews arrive at the site within hours to repair the cause of the leak and start clean-up. These crews use their expertise and equipment to contain the damage to vegetation. For example, crews will create earthen barriers to stop the spread of oil and pumps will begin clearing oil off the land and into storage containers.

Restoring the vegetation

Experts like agrologists will do a thorough environmental assessment to determine impacts on soil and vegetation, and then begin the reclamation process. One reclamation technique is to remove and replace the contaminated soil, or the soil may be cleaned at the site. Native vegetation will be planted to return the area to the state it was in before the incident. The area will be monitored to ensure long-term damage is reduced.

Taking full responsibility

CEPA members are committed to protecting the environment. Member pipelines are among the safest in the world, and we are committed to reaching zero incidents.

Being liable for the spill

Major Canadian pipeline companies are subject to regulation that makes them absolutely liable for the complete cost of a pipeline spill, no matter whose fault the spill was. The Pipeline Safety Act clearly outlines that major transmission pipeline operators must have a minimum of a billion dollars in financial capacity to handle a spill. If the company is at fault, they have unlimited liability until the area is cleaned-up, and they may be required to pay clean-up and recovery costs to affected stakeholders and communities.

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