David Suzuki Foundation calls for transparency, inclusion of First Nations monitors after oil spills
Workers clean up the oil spill in Abbotsford near Trans Mountain’s Sumas Pump Station on Saturday, June 13, 2020. (Shane MacKichan file photo)
Ensuring local Indigenous reps are involved quickly after an oil spill like the one in Abbotsford last week is a key part of “reconciliation and environmental justice,” says the director general for the David Suzuki Foundation.
The crude oil spill from the Trans Mountain pipeline at the Sumas Pump Station is a stark reminder that accidents are bound to happen with this type of fossil fuel infrastructure.
“As long as Canada continues to transport oil, spills will happen – and they will always create the risk of detrimental impacts on nature and people,” said Jay Ritchlin of the David Suzuki Foundation.
The spill site is near a cultural site and burial grounds of the Sema:th First Nation and Stό:lō Coast Salish Peoples.
It’s seen as “unacceptable” that Sema:th First Nation’s monitors were not cleared to access the site for 12 hours after the spill incident was reported.
Full transparency and inclusion of Indigenous nations whenever any type of spill occurs is called for.
“They need to have continuous access to monitoring stations and the ability to see with their own eyes what has occurred on their unceded territory. This is a key part of reconciliation and environmental justice.”
A rapid transition away from “this toxic and outdated fuel,” to protect wildlife like salmon and orca, combat the climate crisis and maintain the well-being of our communities is necessary, he noted.
“It’s concerning that the spill occurred where a lake used to exist and where the groundwater is a local potable water source,” Ritchlin said.
The spill leaked 1,195 barrels, which is up to 190,000 litres, of oil just south of the Lightning Rock site. As much as five large trucks would be required to transport the equivalent amount of crude oil.
Trans Mountain has reported approximately 84 spills since 1961 – which is more than one a year.
In this case, the oil flowed to an adjacent field owned by Trans Mountain and leased for agricultural uses. The company’s on-site monitoring has not indicated an immediate threat but provincial authorities need to confirm that.