'Wrong side of history': Burnaby Mountain resident pushes back on pipeline decision
Lesley Durrant has accepted she’s lost her patch of paradise. Now she says she’s worried about losing her life.
Durrant has lived on Burnaby Mountain for almost three decades and Ottawa’s decision Tuesday to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion once again has left her both frustrated and worried.
“If there is a fire or a spill, we won’t even have time to get out of our homes,” Durrant said. “We’ll be dead. It’ll be like our Pompeii.”
Durrant, whose leafy, idyllic backyard lies just steps from the pipeline terminus and a storage tank farm that’s now set to expand from 13 tanks to 26, says she hasn’t slept well in months.
CTV first met her in April when she pulled out videos and documents of the noise she said woke her up as early as 4 a.m. on nearly a daily basis, including a beeping front gate, rumbling sounds and voices.
“Some weeks I’m so sleep deprived, I can’t drive,” she told CTV News at the time.
While Trans Mountain addressed the alarm on the tank farm gate, Durrant said the noise from the nearly non-stop gravel trucks, bulldozers and diggers is “just as bad as it ever was,” and with Tuesday’s decision, she only expects it to get worse.
“I think the decision is on the wrong side of history,” Durrant said.
On Wednesday, Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley called that decision disappointing, but not surprising, and said his chief concern now is protecting residents like Durrant, and coming up with strong evacuation and emergency plans.
“My worst fear is that we have a real big fire, a boil up over there,” Hurley said.
And the mayor is frustrated both with the prime minister and with Trans Mountain. While he and firefighters met with Justin Trudeau earlier this month, and Hurley said the prime minister “listened very clearly” to his safety concerns, they haven’t heard back since.
And when it comes to the Crown corporation that owns and operates the tank farm and pipeline, Hurley says both the city and residents have been held at arm's length.
“Hopefully the company will come forward and actively involve us,” Hurley said. "I don’t know how they can do it without us.”
In a statement, Trans Mountain told CTV News it was “ready and willing to work with the City of Burnaby, and [welcomes] the opportunity to receive their feedback and input.”
It also provided links to their emergency response plans and outlined that they’ve been “enhanced…to address the requirements of the expanded system,” including measures that are designed to reduce the risks of fires and spills.
Those include a larger fire-water reservoir, new high-capacity fire-water pump and foam systems, dual early fire detection systems, remote-activated fire suppression systems, and a mobile firefighting system.
While Trans Mountain pointed out there hasn’t been a storage tank fire at any of its terminals in 65 years of operation, Hurley says he can’t understand why there isn’t a cohesive, all-encompassing safety and response plan with everyone on the same page.
“To date, after all these years talking with us, this still hasn’t been addressed,” Hurley said, adding that as a former firefighter, he remembers responding to the 2007 pipeline accident on Inlet Drive, and the challenges and confusion as the first few hours unfolded.
Durrant adds that what was once a very natural environment full of owls, frogs, and coyotes roaming the mountain, is gone. Two units in her townhouse complex are for sale, but Durrant says she “couldn’t in good conscious sell it to someone, unless they were aware of the risks.”
And while Durrant admits she fully expects the pipeline expansion to be built, she still has a plea for the prime minister:
“I would say to Justin that he has a young family. He wouldn’t want that in his backyard…I hope that Justin is listening. I hope that he changes his mind.”