Human health risk assessment report released

Today the Council of Canadians released a report commissioned by Dr. Ken Froese on the Environmental and Health Impacts of the proposed Energy East pipeline on Red Head, Saint John.


Dr. Froese, an independent expert with over 20 years experience in health and environmental risk assessment, reviewed TransCanada’s Human Health Risk Assessment, part of its Energy East project application to the National Energy Board.
You can read his report here, and our press release.

Today the Council of Canadians released a report commissioned by Dr. Ken Froese on the Environmental and Health Impacts of the proposed Energy East pipeline on Red Head, Saint John.


Dr. Froese, an independent expert with over 20 years experience in health and environmental risk assessment, reviewed TransCanada’s Human Health Risk Assessment, part of its Energy East project application to the National Energy Board.
You can read his report here, and our press release.

The conclusions include:

- TransCanada evaluates only a subset of compounds people may be exposed to and fails to adequately explain why certain reference guidelines were chosen from one jurisdiction over another
- Worst case scenarios such as a large scale spill, oil storage tank fire or oil tanker spill are not accounted for by TransCanada
- TransCanada used Alberta guidelines for benzene, had they used Ontario’s, the conclusion would have shifted from not significant to significant health impacts
- Risks from benzene (a cancer-causing VOC) may be understated
- There is minimal discussion of odours


We commissioned Dr. Froese to look over TransCanada’s assessment after hearing clearly from Red Head and Saint John residents that the potential health impacts from the proposed plans, particularly in the context of Saint John’s existing industrialization, was a core concern.


Dr. Froese and I have been in Saint John, New Brunswick meeting Red Head residents, learning about the area and talking to media. We saw how close the oil storage tank terminal will be to nearby residents on Red Head Rd., and Anthony’s Cove Read.

 


We held a meeting yesterday with close to 40 Red Head and some Saint John residents, presenting his findings, a good discussion ensued. I found the discussion around odours particularly interesting. There is a complex relationship between odours and human health. Dr. Froese discussed how difficult it can be to technically measure odours which are experienced differently by people.


He used the example of Peace River, Alberta to explain. This is where heavy oil facilities located near family farms led to a number of families leaving their generations-owned farms because of health impacts such as nose bleeds, dizzyness and headaches. Local doctors weren’t able to explain their symptoms, but a number of them experienced relief when they left their homes with symptoms returning when they did. Dr. Froese explained that this was happening yet none of the air quality guidelines in Alberta were being exceeded. This led to the development of new good practice guidelines for evaluating odours in the province. But that relationship remains complex.

On a related note, Dr. Froese elaborated on the challenges of Human Health Risk Assessments themselves. For example, much of the assessments are based on modeling which has varying degrees accuracy. There is also a general lack of understanding of what happens when chemicals and odours mix, as opposed to being evaluated on their own. There is a section in his report, and appendix expanding on the limitation of these assessments in concluding what the health impacts of a project would be. He advocates for a more holistic approach to evaluation that includes monitoring as well as involving community and having plans in place to deal with symptoms that may occur.

Today’s events will also bring to the surface some critical news for Red Head and Saint John residents. We recently learned that, at the last community liaison committee meeting this past week, TransCanada announced a number of changes for the project in this area due to the cancelling of the Quebec Cacouna port in the wake of widespread opposition.

These changes include:

  • Storage tank capacity increasing from 7.65M BBL (in initial application) to 13.2M BBL
  • Storage tank numbers increasing from 18 to 22. All new tanks will be 600,000 BBL (78.6 m diameter, height of 6 story building, 70 feet taller than proposed 500,000 BBL tanks)
  • Due to a reconfiguration of the site, footprint of tank terminal will reduce, slightly closest distance from a tank to a residence, 260m, closest distance from the facility to a house, 100m


This came as a surprise to the Red Head residents I spoke with, and understandably so. It means that TransCanada will need to do their Human Health Risk Assessment that Dr. Froese’s report was based on. While it is far more complex then saying the predicted impacts or risks will double because the infrastructure is, it certainly underscores the need for TransCanada to be accountable to the very questions Dr. Froese raises in his report. Also, more infrastructure certainly doesn’t equate to less exposure and risk.


The report concludes with these questions:

· Why was the Alberta guideline for benzene used rather than the more stringent Ontario guideline?

· An addendum to Volume 6 of the Application is referred to in the Health section. Has TransCanada completed this assessment? What is the scope of the assessment? Does it include reasonable worst-case scenarios for the Saint John oil storage tanks and marine terminal?

· In a June 30, 2015 letter to Gordon Dalzell, TransCanada states that a Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) is planned for the terminal and tank farm facilities to evaluate the aerial contaminant emissions. Is this different than the current HHRA, dated September 2014? If so, has TransCanada completed this risk assessment?

· Currently, a monitoring program related to human health concerns is considered unnecessary because the effects assessment concludes there will be no risks of health effects. Will TransCanada commit to developing and implementing a monitoring program that is both chemical and health-based? Such a monitoring program would ideally begin well before construction of the tank and marine facilities begin to establish a baseline of selected parameters. The company should discuss their anticipated response to future community or individual concerns. As a starting point, CASA’s guide offers various tools for tracking odour character and health symptoms, prevention and mitigation, and ongoing odour assessment tools.

· Will TransCanada commit to meaningful and relevant community health monitoring, beginning prior to construction if the project goes ahead?


get updates

Liquid syntax error: Error in tag 'subpage' - No such page slug