The fifth sinkhole to appear on or near Langley Township Councillor Rob Rindt’s property has him worried about the safety of his family and staff.
The sinkhole appeared Saturday, June 10 near the site where contractors for Trans Mountain are drilling underground as part of the extension of the oil pipeline that runs from Alberta to a refinery in Burnaby.
“It just seems to be getting deeper, and the whole road is sinking into the ground,” said Rindt, who owns a turf farm on several properties on either side of 240th Street, as well as the Roots and Wings Distillery.
The first four sinkholes appeared on his property or nearby in April and May, and damaged 240th Street to such an extent that traffic had to be restricted to one lane on 240th Street between 80th Avenue and 72nd Avenue for several days in May while repairs were made.
The new sinkhole is on the edge of Rindt’ s property near the road, and he estimates it was up to 30 feet deep. Several truckloads of gravel have been dumped into it, but Rindt believes it’s still sinking somewhat.
“They brought another load [of gravel] yesterday,” Rindt said Thursday, June 15.
He said he was planning to talk to his lawyer about the situation.
“My main concern at this location is, what’s going to happen in the future, and are they going to fix it up properly?” Rindt said.
His staff work in the fields there, and his children play on that land, Rindt said. He’s concerned about future sinkholes creating a hazard for them.
The pipeline stretches across the fields of Rindt’s turf farm, and also affects a potato field that serves the distillery.
Rindt also owns some farmland in Abbotsford, which was also cut through by the pipeline.
The Langley Advance Times asked Trans Mountain’s media relations portal a number of questions about the causes and number of sinkholes. Trans Mountain provided a statement.
“As is the case with the trenchless crossing under 240th Street in Langley, we do encounter challenging ground conditions that occasionally result in the formation of sink holes, which is not unexpected,” the statement said. “Work sites are continuously monitored and should a sink hole occur it is immediately stabilized. Once construction is completed the sink hole is permanently repaired.”
The site where the sinkholes have formed is where the company has started to drill underground to lay pipeline, rather than the usual method of digging a trench and installing the pipe directly. The “trenchless” method is used to get past waterways, environmentally sensitive locations, highways, and railways.
Doug Hawley, the general manager of the Redwoods Golf Course in Walnut Grove, said that there were a couple of small sinkholes created there were the Trans Mountain pipeline used drilling to get under some major trees without removing them.
“It’s not as good as it sounds,” he said of the trenchless method. Fortunately, he said the golf course’s sinkholes were filled in and are not in areas of play.
The pipeline was originally being constructed by Kinder Morgan, which wanted to add capacity to an existing pipeline that was built in the 1950s to connect oil producing regions of northern Alberta with the coast.
The new, additional pipeline will almost triple the capacity of the original line. However, because there had been a significant amount of development in the Lower Mainland since the first line was built, the new line doesn’t always follow the same route.
The pipeline was taken over by the federal government in 2018, purchased from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion.
The cost of the project was originally estimated at $12.6 billion. That was increased to $21.4 billion in 2022, and this March, the price tag ballooned again to an estimated $30.9 billion.
Meanwhile, the project has already missed its expected completion date of 2022, and is now projected to be up and running in early 2024. That delay has impacted the landowners whose properties are on the pipeline routes.
In Langley, for example, the Redwoods Golf Course is closed a year longer than planned, although Hawley said it is now looking like things are on schedule and the course will open for late spring next year.
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