How do we protect water quality?

Watercourse crossing safety explained

There’s no room for debate. Safeguarding water quality is non-negotiable.

At Enbridge, our goal will always be 100 per cent safety. Protecting the environment in our communities, and the areas where we operate, is our top priority. And a critical part of that commitment is safeguarding water quality.

As the operator of the world’s longest and most complex crude oil and liquids pipeline system, we’re perpetually monitoring our system to ensure the products in our pipes safely cross a variety of climates and settings. You may be surprised to learn this, but watercourse crossings are fairly common on our pipeline routes.

By their very nature, pipelines intersect and cross a variety of landforms and environments, such as mountain ranges, lakes, rivers, wetlands, farmland, aquifers, and densely populated areas. It is not always feasible to avoid all potentially sensitive locations.

We’ve developed comprehensive safety measures that focus on preventative maintenance – and we pay special attention to areas with a potentially elevated impact on the public, including drinking water sources and watercourse crossings.

When it comes to planning and building our projects, we work closely with multiple stakeholders – including government and regulatory agencies, environmental organizations, and community representatives – to make sure those projects are developed to accommodate unique and local environment needs.

Enbridge’s Liquids Pipelines (LP) Risk Management collects information on all drinking water sources – including ground water wells, and surface water intakes at rivers and lakes. This information is obtained through public sources, such as government databases and environmental agencies, and contributes to a comprehensive project environmental assessment. We always welcome additional information from municipalities and the public on environmentally sensitive areas, including drinking water sources.

Based on the data we collect, we start to build in safety measures that are both system-wide and tailored to the individual project. These safety measures include:

  • Careful selection of pipeline routes and line locations;
  • Design and construction stage safeguards, including selecting specially designed and engineered pipe steel, corrosion-inhibiting coatings, and built-in cathodic protection;
  • System monitoring on a continuous, 24/7 basis, using both human eyes and computer control, as well as aerial and ground surveys;
  • Regular pipeline inspections, using smart tools and the best technology available, and integrity digs to visually inspect for features that may require repair.

In the case of watercourse crossings – including large rivers, and other sensitive crossings – we tend to use Horizontal Directional Drill (HDD) technology to install underground pipelines. HDD projects, which install pipe well below a riverbed, can be completed in a way that minimizes environmental and stakeholder impact.

We also take numerous other special measures to ensure pipe safety at watercourse crossings, including:

  • The strategic placement of isolation valves at water bodies or crossings;
  • Greater pipe thickness;
  • Special measures that may include regular inspection and maintenance by expert divers.

Prevention is key, and at Enbridge, we choose to focus on prevention before issues arise. However, we want to be as prepared as possible in the unlikely event of an incident – which means we also have detailed emergency response plans that guide our response based on specific types of watercourses and water bodies. These plans include strategic storage of response equipment across our regions for quick deployment on water, and personnel – including employees, contractors, and response organizations – on standby to respond immediately.

We also take this aspect of safety very seriously, training first responders and conducting regular emergency response exercises. In 2012, we held 381 exercises, drills, and equipment deployment events across North America – and in 2013, we held 478 more.

At Enbridge, we’ve developed our suite of safety measures around watercourse crossings to provide maximum safety and minimal environmental impact – both during construction, and while in operation.

Our goal is 100 per cent safety, and safeguarding water quality is right at the top of our priority list.