What should I do if I see a pipeline leak?

As rare as they are, pipeline leaks do happen. Here’s how to recognize an emergency and what to do.

Recognizing the signs of an emergency

If you are near a pipeline right-of-way and you see or hear any of the following, it could indicate a leak:

  • An unusual whistling, hissing or roaring sound could indicate product leaking from a pipeline
  • A smell of petroleum could indicate an oil leak, and the smell of rotten eggs could indicate a natural gas leak
  • Damaged or discoloured vegetation
  • A build-up of frost on the ground or pools of liquid
  • Bubbles rising in free-standing water
  • Isolated vapour or mist clouds

Protecting yourself in an emergency

If you notice any of the signs listed above, here’s what you should do:

  • Leave the area immediately — if possible, walk into the wind for at least 750 metres
  • Warn any others nearby to evacuate, particularly if there are children or others requiring assistance
  • Extinguish any fires, smoking materials and potential ignition or spark sources – including any unnecessary electronic equipment
  • Call 911
  • Call the pipeline company — look for pipeline right of way and warning signs for emergency call numbers

Responding to an emergency

While emergencies are a rare occurrence, every CEPA member engages in exhaustive planning, preparation and practice to ensure they are ready for anything. When an incident occurs, CEPA members collaborate with emergency response teams to stop the leak, contain the spill and limit impact to the environment.

They follow Emergency Response Plans that are developed to cover any scenario, and then rehearsed to ensure smooth execution. Pipeline companies also train and work with municipal Emergency Services to ensure they are prepared to assist.

Emergency response training - Enbridge

CEPA members regularly hold emergency response exercises to ensure their employees are ready to respond to an incident. Photo courtesy of Enbridge Pipelines.

CEPA members practice emergency planning procedures to ensure they can respond quickly to any incident.

Getting information on alerts

Canada has an Alert Ready system, which was developed in partnership with federal, provincial and territorial emergency management officials, Environment Canada and the broadcast industry to ensure Canadians receive alerts immediately and know how to stay safe. The system handles various alerts, including hazardous material releases, environmental disasters and terrorist threats. www.theweathernetwork.com/alert-ready

You Asked

How often are pipes replaced? Are there regulations stating replacement intervals depending on type of pipe used? Or are they only replaced if anomalies are found? If so, how often are pipelines inspected according to both provincial and federal regulations? - Erynn (Lloydminster, AB)
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