An Open Letter

We wanted to take a few minutes to inform you about some concerns we have regarding a new project being proposed that could seriously impact Bates and Cass Counties. The project is a proposed pipeline expansion by the energy company, Enbridge, to link up oil fields in the Tar Sands region of Northern Canada down to the Gulf of Mexico. Enbridge calls it proposal the Flanagan South Pipeline.

Our main concern with this project is with the possible impacts on water quality and the public health. The proposed pipeline route crosses the South Grand River just North of Archie, within one mile of the City of Archie’s water intake pump on the Grand. Adrian’s water intake pump is another mile downriver.

Clearly, a pipeline spill in this vicinity would be damaging to both communities and to the many farmers and rural residents that share water with these towns through our rural water districts.

We’ve been talking with experts and attempting to determine the risks of such a spill. It turns out that spill risks are very high because the substance that would be coming through the pipeline is highly toxic, corrosive, abrasive and conducive to spills. The pipeline would be carrying diluted bitumen. Bitumen is a tar-like substance that has various chemicals and hydrocarbons added to it so that it will flow through pipelines. The industry refers to the substance as “dilbit”. Here’s some of our main concerns: Dilbit contains benzene, mixed hydrocarbons and n-hexane. All three are toxins that can affect the human brain and central nervous system.

Dilbit’s characteristics make it very different than conventional petroleum, therefore it operates very differently than does conventional oil as it flows through the pipeline. Dilbit has much higher acidity, viscosity, sulfur content, pipeline temperature and pipeline pressure than do conventional oil pipelines. Dilbit also contains higher rates of flow per second of quartz and silicates than do commercial sand blasters. These factors create concerns regarding pipeline spill risks. Dilbit does not float when it spills into water like conventional oil. Dilbit sinks, making surface water containment strategies ineffective.

Despite industry promises of safety and pipeline integrity, spills happen often. In fact, there are more than 100 petrochemical pipeline spills every year flowing toxic poisons into our forests, fields, waterways and communities.

Unfortunately, as we’ve been researching this issue, we’ve discovered that dilbit is already flowing through an existing 60-year old pipeline in the region, and possibly others. Tar sand oil (again, that’s dilbit appears to be most likely to burst through the pipes on aging lines. We feel like it’s necessary to raise this issue so more citizens are informed about the possible damage that could come as the oil industry expands throughout West Missouri. To top of the risks of the pipeline operations, there is very little legislation or regulatory framework that we’ve found that addresses these concerns.

Please take the time to inform yourself on this important community issue. As concerned citizens of our region who support every attempt to improve and protect our public water system, we will continue to monitor the project and share information as the proposed project progresses. Please contact us if you have questions or would like to discuss this issue.

Danny Ferguson and Bryce Oates