I read with great dismay Coun. Alexa Loo’s comments regarding the proposed VAFFC (Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation) development at Riverport.
She stated that, “I know it’s really important to all of us that we protect our water, protect our fish and protect our farmland while at the same time having jobs and keeping people safe. The one thing the fuel pipeline will do is it will take 1,000 (fuel) trucks off the road.”
It appears that Loo has either not attended the recent VAFFC forum, or otherwise educated herself on the proposed development.
Per the VAFFC, the tank farm will hold, in total, 80 million litres of highly combustible, highly toxic jet fuel at an unmanned facility at Riverport.
This fuel will be stored in six tanks 600 metres from a public swimming pool, a bowling alley, theatres, restaurants, a hotel, and condominium buildings located at Riverport.
There will be no personnel onsite at the tank farm, as VAFFC will rely solely on remote monitoring. In the event of an incident, emergency responders would have to cross the overpass at Steveston Highway and Highway 99, potentially during peak traffic. How is VAFFC “keeping people safe”?
As VAFFC notes, this project will trade 1,000 tanker trucks per month with three to five vessel deliveries per month.
Their estimates rise to 3,000 tanker trucks or nine to 15 vessels per month over the next 20 years.
The anticipated Panamax sized vessels hold up to 500,000 barrels (60 million litres), not to mention bunker fuel for the ship’s engine.
The English Bay accident in April 2015 was a good example of how quickly bunker fuel, or any petroleum product, travels over water.
An accident on the Fraser River would be magnified by the speed in which the water travels, and the way in which it penetrates the estuary.
A tanker truck in comparison holds 20,000 to 40,000 litres, no bunker fuel, and travels on routes in which it is much easier to contain any spills. How is the VAFFC development safer “for our water, fish and farmland”?
Construction is estimated to be complete within two years, of which 12 months are dedicated to site preparation, followed by 12 months of facility construction.
This project will create only one year of temporary construction employment. With a remotely monitored facility, how many permanent Richmond jobs are actually going to be created at the cost of our environmental and personal safety?
I am not denying the fuel needs of our growing community or suggesting that the airport not make plans to accommodate growth.
I am suggesting that VAFFC needs to find a safer alternative than shipping fuel up the South Arm of the Fraser River.
In the meantime, while this project is still seeking approvals, including building permits from the City of Richmond, Loo should take seriously the duty she was elected to undertake.
The duty of the councillors and mayor is to advocate for the citizens of Richmond, and to protect their safety and interests, not just for today, but for tomorrow, too.