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British Columbia Burnaby mayor-elect opposes Trans Mountain expansion over possible ‘boil over’

Mayor-elect Mike Hurley poses for a photo at the Kinder Morgan tank farm, in Burnaby, B.C., on Oct. 28, 2018.

Jimmy Jeong/The Globe and Mail

The mayor-elect of Burnaby, B.C., is taking up the fight against the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, citing concerns about fire safety at the proposed expansion to the oil tank farm in the city.

Mike Hurley, a former firefighter, said a potential “boil over” at the Trans Mountain oil tank yard is behind his opposition to the project. A boil over is when a fire in a tank spills over to set fire to other nearby parked tanks, leading to the discharge of molten crude into areas as far as 600 metres away from the property. The issue was raised in a 2015 Burnaby Fire Department report about risks associated with the expansion of the pipeline.

Mr. Hurley, who will be sworn in on Nov. 5, said it’s the doubling of the number of tanks near a residential area that worries him. “We just don’t have the resources in the city to fight something like that,” he said.

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While there has never been a boil over situation at the tank farm, Burnaby fire Chief Joe Robinson said, “It doesn’t mean there can’t be.”

In a statement, Trans Mountain said there has never been a storage tank fire at one of its terminals in 65 years of operations, adding that tank fires are rare worldwide.

The statement said prevention measures include early detection and fire suppression systems, operational procedures to reduce possible risks, regular National Energy Board audits and “adequate” spacing of tanks as set by the National Fire Protection Association and National Fire Code of Canada.

Looking ahead, the company said the expansion project in Burnaby will include a larger fire-water reservoir, and remote-activated fire suppression systems.

Mr. Hurley, however, would like to see Trans Mountain consider another solution to the problem – building a new tank farm in a more isolated area. “Burnaby is just too built up for those kinds of risks."

The federal government bought the expansion project for $4.5-billion earlier this year. In August, the Federal Court of Appeal quashed Ottawa’s approval of the project because the government didn’t properly consult First Nations. The government subsequently asked the National Energy Board to review the impact of the pipeline expansion on marine shipping. The board is working toward a February deadline.

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