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Slocan spill raises concerns about YVR pipeline

VAPOR renews calls against tankers on the South Arm supplying jet fuel

A spill of aviation fuel into a Slocan Valley creek last Friday has re-ignited local opposition to plans of shipping fuel up the Fraser River's South Arm and storing it in a massive tank farm in south east Richmond.

Carol Day, chair of VAPOR (Vancouver Airport Fuel Project Opposition for Richmond) told the Richmond News she was horrified after learning of a tanker truck carrying 35,000 litres of aviation fuel - needed for forest fire fighting helicopters in the region - spilling its load into Lemon Creek.

The accident is also suspected to be the cause of a large fish kill in the area frequented by sports anglers.

"It's outrageous that people can make decisions that threaten the environment, especially in light of this horrible accident," Day said, referring to the decision of the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation (VAFFC), a consortium of airlines,

to seek an improved fuel supply for YVR that would bring in fuel by barge and tanker down the South Arm to an 80-million litre, tank farm and then send it via a 15-kilometre long, underground pipe across Richmond to the airport. "The VAFFC have guaranteed in their paperwork that there is going to be a spill if they ship jet fuel up the Fraser River. And how, especially after this (Lemon Creek spill), can they move forward with such a horrible proposal," Day said. "So, we're hoping this will wake everybody up. I feel so bad

for the people living near Lemon Creek. But given that it's happened, let's learn from it and get something positive out of it."

Day added assurances from VAFFC that in case there is a spill, adequate cleanup processes will be in place to limit environmental harm, do not carry any weight with her.

"We're talking Panamax tankers loaded with jet fuel proposed for the south arm of the most important salmon river in the world," Day said. "And we're talking 80 million litres, 400 metres from the Waterstone Pier (condo development).

"People 30 to 40 miles away (from Lemon Creek) were overcome by the toxic fuel smell. Just the smell of the jet fuel," Day added. "Could you imagine living in your condo, facing the Fraser River, and just downstream a short distance away there is a massive spill, fire or explosion? "We need to make smarter decisions, not the ones that make the most money."

The jet fuel pipeline proposal is still undergoing a provincial environmental review process. But from the outset, city officials have opposed the plan, a stance being reinforced following the Lemon Creek spill. "It (Lemon Creek incident) brings back awareness that we could have similar problems," said Coun. Bill McNulty who is acting mayor while Mayor Malcolm Brodie is out of town.

"We have issues with a jet fuel line going through Richmond."

McNulty added that a better option is to increase the capacity of the current fuel pipeline supplying YVR from the refinery in Burrard Inlet.

"It goes through industrial areas to the airport, supplies the airport, so obviously the solution is already there," he said.

Another option, supported by VAPOR and bypassing VAFFC's plan, involves establishing a pipeline directly from the Cherry Point refinery in Washington State to supply YVR.

But with a recent, slight dip in passenger traffic figures for YVR, Day is also questioning the long-term need for an increased supply of jet fuel.

"They (VAFFC) keep saying we need the fuel, but at the same time the numbers don't support that," she said.

According to figures posted on the Vancouver Airport Authority's website, total passenger traffic for the January to June period this year was fractionally down compared to the same period in 2012.

The numbers show a drop of 7,528 passengers, a decline of 0.1 per cent.

Drops in traffic were recorded in all categories, except for domestic and Asia

Pacific routes, which experienced increases of 1.6 and 1.2 per cent, respectively.

Air cargo numbers were also slightly down for the same stretch.

But, according to the the airport authority's 20-year master plan released in 2007, annual passenger traffic could be in the range of 45 million, and there could be as many as 600,000 aircraft takeoffs and landings each year by 2044.

The total passenger traffic at YVR in 2012 was just over 17.5 million.

According to the VAFFC's website, the proposed jet fuel pipeline would be able to supply YVR's fuel needs for the next 60 to 100 years, and eliminate the need to deliver supplemental fuel by truck.

Currently, 25 to 35 trucks ferry jet fuel from Washington State to YVR.

If the proposed pipeline is not approved, VAFFC forecasts that in 20 years those truck deliveries would rise to 200 a day.