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Evacuation plans? What Evacuation Plans?

If a soup kitchen in the middle of Montreal with gas company workers right on the scene can't be successfully evacuated, what do you suppose the chances are for an effective evacuation after an accident in rural Quebec?

Take East Hereford, for example. As beautiful as this bucolic community on the Quebec border above New Hampshire is, the sparse population there is not supported by what could be called advanced transportation and communications infrastructures. Victims of a pipeline accident there could face delays of up to several hours before they would receive adequate medical treatment. It was in recognition of this and other factors that the BAPE recommended the TQM pipeline avoid East Hereford altogether. This was only one of the many recommendations that our Quebec government has chosen to ignore.

The promoters of the TQM PNGTS Extension, including Gaz Metropolitain, have always maintained that they would work with municipalities to implement effective emergency response plans for their pipeline project. However, the responsible TQM representative was unable to give adequate details of such a plan when questioned by landowners before the BAPE. Furthermore, it was discovered that not only had Gaz Metropolitain failed to consult with municipalities in whose territory they installed their gas system in 1984 concerning emergency response, many of those municipalities had no emergency plan whatsoever in place.

The difficulties involved in adequately responding to a gas pipeline accident in rural areas are further compounded by the fact that rural residents are considerably disadvantaged when it comes to pipeline safety.

First of all, isolated groups of rural residents are expected to live very near to pipeline systems which are constructed using the Canadian Standards Association's Z662 Class I approved pipe thickness - the thinnest of the CSA standards.

In addition, shut-off valves in the countryside are located only every 25 kilometers, meaning that even after a leak has been detected and communicated to a control center located near Montreal (or, on weekends, Alberta) it would take up to forty-five minutes to stop the flow of gas.

Forty-five minutes assuming that the shut-off valve functions properly. During a pipeline accident near Maple Creek, Saskatchewan a shut-off valve malfunctioned and the emergency response was delayed. Result: it was nearly seven hours before all the gas burned off. Read the Transportation Safety Board of Canada's official report .

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