Safety Concerns

20150704_095242Across Wisconsin community groups are coming together to learn about the impacts of the pipelines and the potential Line 61-twin.  Communities are concerned about the safety impacts of the pipelines.

The diluents (or chemicals that are mixed with tar sands in order to allow it to flow
through the pipelines) pose a number of safety risks.  The diluents are made up of many toxic chemicals.  This includes benzene, a known carcinogen.

With the unprecedented volume of oil that will soon be traveling through Wisconsin, residents have reason to be concerned.   In the town of Medina, Enbridge is building an open air “spill pond” at the pump station, planned to hold as much as would be spilled in one hour if there were to be a full rupture.

What if there were a spill of this magnitude at the pump station or anywhere along the route of Line 61?  This would be 2.1 million gallons of tar sands, containing approximately 600,000 gallons volatile diluent with 11,000 gallons of benzene. If only 10% of this evaporated into the air, benzene concentrations would exceed the safety limit for occupational workers in a space equivalent to 10 football fields, 1.3 miles high. This can help explain why at Kalamazoo, so many people in the surrounding, exposed communities developed acute symptoms.
Given the potential impacts, the new recommendations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have recommended the following:

  • Local governments should adopt land development procedures requiring property developers/owners to consult with transmission pipeline operators early in the development process, so that development designs minimize risks to the populace living or working nearby and are consistent with the needs and legal rights of the operators.
  • Although past developments cannot be changed, they can serve as good examples to inform future decisions. Local governments are encouraged to review existing land use and development next to transmission pipelines to identify scenarios where better design decisions could have reduced risks. Emergency evacuation procedures and assembly area locations should be reviewed to include consideration of potential threats from pipeline failures.
  • Consider ways to decrease the population density near pipeline right-of-way
  • Review plans to ensure adequate access to the pipeline facilities and ROW, access for emergency response vehicles, access to and capacity of water and other resources needed for emergency response

Many local governments have begun researching ways they can protect their communities from the impacts of these pipelines. The Pipeline Safety Trust has a helpful guide.

More information about safety concerns can be found at Brave Wisconsin