An Enbridge official said he's been told to equip the Northern Gateway oil pipeline with the best spill detection system possible, but he admits leaks do happen.

Barry Callele, the person in charge of leak detection for Enbridge, testified at hearings into the project in Prince George Wednesday.

He said the company is testing every spill detection technology available, and cost is not a factor.

Under grilling from a B.C. government lawyer about spills on Enbridge pipelines in the Northwest Territories and Michigan, Callele admitted there were mistakes, but says changes have been made in company procedures since then.

On the same day as the Northern Gateway hearings continued, a panel of industry associations gathered in Vancouver to defend pipeline safety.

An official with the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association claimed a record of “only” three major pipeline incidents on average every year shows pipeline safety is getting better.

His comment comes at the same time as a marine transportation official estimated oil tanker traffic along B.C.'s coast will increase five-fold if approval is granted for the Northern Gateway pipeline and an expansion of the Kinder Morgan line through Vancouver.

Ziad Saad, a vice-president with the pipeline association, acknowledged the public’s high expectations and said their goal is to never have any oil leaks or spills.

He contends pipelines in general are safe, with companies in Canada abiding by the best codes and standards for pipeline design, construction and operation in the world.

However, recent pipeline spills speak for themselves. More than 50 kilometres of waterways and wetlands were fouled when an Enbridge pipeline spilled into Michigan's Kalamazoo River in 2010, while a line operated by another company leaked about 3,000 barrels into Alberta's Red Deer River in June.

With files from the Canadian Press