Enbridge’s Line 9 is a 40 year old pipeline that is almost identical in build and age to the Line 6B pipeline that ruptured into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. Line 9 began to carry diluted bitumen from Alberta’s Tar Sands in December 2015.
Following an approval from the National Energy Board in March 2014, the pipeline was put into service. This means Enbridge has reversed its flow, increased its capacity, and is now transporting dangerous diluted bitumen. Line 9 runs through sensitive ecosystems and important farmlands throughout Southern Ontario and Quebec, and passes within 50 km of over 9 million people, including 18 First Nations communities.
Line 9 crosses every major tributary that flows into Lake Ontario. When considering the Greater Toronto Area, a pipeline break occurring at the Credit River, Etobicoke Creek, Humber River, Don River, Highland Creek or Rouge River would result in a significant threat of benzene contamination at one or more of Toronto’s four drinking water intake locations.
The benzene levels would exceed the Ontario drinking water standards, resulting in reduced capacity for Toronto to provide water to its residents for some time. Similarly, Montreal’s drinking water could be contaminated in the case of a spill at the pumping station upstream of the St. Lawrence River.
Diluted bitumen, which Line 9 is proposed to carry, is composed of not only benzene, but also polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and n-hexane, toxins that affect the human central nervous system. Currently, Toronto’s drinking water treatment plants cannot safely eliminate these compounds. Additionally, there is no evidence that there is an appropriate benzene monitoring program along the route of Line 9.
In addition to drinking water, important farmlands are also at risk. Surrounding Waterloo, Ontario, a wealth of rich farmland is fed by the Grand River watershed, which is crossed by Line 9. Local food systems are positioned to be at risk of an oil spill. The land is intensively used for both mixed farming as well as cash crops, with 75 per cent of the watershed actively farmed (on approximately 6,400 farms). The frequent tilling and planting of this farmland makes these nutrient dense soils more permeable, which in turn makes it easier for contaminants to penetrate and pollute the soil and groundwater alike.
Line 9 passes within 50 km of 18 First Nation communities, and impacts the watersheds of several more.
The Two Row Wampum, the Nanfan, and the Haldimand treaties, the Royal Proclamation, the Simcoe Deed, the Canadian Charter of rights and freedoms, and the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples, are a few of the many treaties and agreements that are being infringed upon by the Line 9 project.
The responsibilities outlined in these treaties include ensuring that free prior and informed consent is sought from Indigenous nations when a project that may impact them is proposed, and that real consultation on such projects – not simply notification and follow-up – takes place before they are permitted to move forward.
If a corporation is undertaking a project, the NEB must still ensure the duty to consult is undertaken, and in this case, Enbridge must not move forward with their plans until that duty is honoured. Evidence submitted by intervenors including Mohawk Council of Kahnawàke, Chippewas of the Thames First Nation and and Aamjiwnaang First Nation indicate that neither the NEB nor Enbridge have honoured the treaties in Line 9’s approval process. Meanwhile, other native communities have protested, including when in July 2015, the Six Nations Men’s Fire shut down an integiry dig, exerting their sovereignty over the land and their opposition to the pipeline. The lack of consultation and the ongoing resistance from indigenous communities exemplifies how Line 9 is a dabgerous project that is illegal- breaking treaties and Canadian law alike.