Sebago TU Public Statement on the pumping of tar sands oil through the Crooked River watershed

Due to the unique risk that tar sands oil (diluted bitumen) poses to streams and rivers, the Sebago Chapter of Trout Unlimited opposes its pumping through the Crooked River corridor. The Portland Pipe Line Corporation (a Canadian-owned subsidiary of ExxonMobil, Shell and Suncor Energy) seeks to reverse the flow of a pipeline currently being used to pump imported crude oil from South Portland to Montreal, so that it can pump tar sands oil from Canada to South Portland for international export. The pipeline crosses the Crooked River watershed, the highest value cold water habitat in Sebago TU’s membership area. Diluted bitumen can evaporate to denser bitumen within a day or two after exposure to air, and mix with suspended sediments in river water, it can sink rather than floating on the water surface as crude oil normally does. Once submerged, tar sands oil can penetrate the sediments of a streambed and be significantly more difficult to find and clean up than crude oil. The process of cleaning up bitumen-saturated sediments can require dredging and cause additional damage to the stream system. There have been spills on the pipeline in question in the past, including 12 barrels spilled in Harrison in 2003, resulting in $246,000 in cleanup costs, and 84 gallons spilled into the Israel River in New Hampshire in 1986. 1,000 barrels of oil spilled from the pipeline into a tributary of the Crooked River in 1960, resulting in an 8-inch thick layer of crude oil on the water surface. Failure of a 30-inch tar sands oil pipeline in 2010 in Michigan spilled 843,000 gallons of diluted bitumen into Talmadge Creek, a surrounding wetland and the Kalamazoo River. It flowed 38 miles downstream and impacted over 1,560 acres of habitat. Three years after the spill, following intensive cleanup efforts, the EPA estimated that as much as 180,000 gallons of tar sands oil remained in the river, necessitating the dredging of an additional 355,000 cubic yards of river sediment. Portland Pipe Line’s pipeline consists of two pipes, 18 and 24 inches. Because of the particular difficulties of finding and cleaning up tar sands oil spilled in stream and river environments, Sebago TU feels that pumping diluted bitumen through the Portland Pipe Line Corporation’s pipeline from Canada to South Portland poses an unacceptable risk to the Crooked River watershed.