Wood drift cards help to determine locations on the Ottawa River, including Greater Montreal, most at risk from an Energy East pipeline oil spill

Pointe-Fortune, QC – How far could oil travel if it leaked from the proposed Energy East pipeline? To help answer this question, Environmental Defence is working with Les Citoyens au Courant and Ecology Ottawa to map where oil from the Energy East pipeline would end up in the event of an oil spill in the Ottawa River.

“The Energy East pipeline puts at risk not only the Ottawa River system but also greater Montreal and surrounding communities,” said Dale Marshall from Environmental Defence. “We are undertaking this project so that local residents better understand those risks.”

The proposed Energy East pipeline from Alberta to New Brunswick will cross nearly 3,000 lakes, rivers, streams, and aquifers. Today, to model the effect of a potential pipeline oil spill on the Ottawa River system in Quebec, 200 small wooden cards will be deposited in the river near the site of the pipeline crossing at Pointe-Fortune, Quebec. These drift cards have identification numbers and instructions so that when people find them, they can go to a website to enter their location as well as see the locations where other cards were found.

“The Ottawa River is essential to our local economy. Fishing and recreational businesses depend on it, but even more importantly, the river provides drinking water to towns like Rigaud, Hudson and Vaudreuil-Dorion. Imagine the economic catastrophe for home and business owners if the Energy East pipeline leaks, and all pipelines do leak,” said Katherine Massam from Les Citoyens au Courant, a grassroots citizen group in Vaudreuil-Soulanges, Quebec.

“The Ottawa River is part of a larger watershed, where millions of people get their drinking water and where countless species live – including several endangered species,” said Robb Barnes from Ecology Ottawa. “We want to protect the river system for its many inhabitants and for sustainable activities such as tourism and boating, rather than allow a pipeline to put it all at risk.”

“This project poses unacceptable risks to the drinking water of 3 million Quebecers,” said Guy Coderre, spokesperson for the teaching staff at the Centre national de formation en traitement de l’eau, a provincial training centre for water treatment. “As trainers for those operating water treatment stations in Quebec, we want to reiterate our firm opposition to the Energy East pipeline project. Water treatment facilities cannot eliminate pollutants from an oil spill. If there was a major spill, there is no realistic Plan B for the vast majority of Greater Montreal’s water intake facilities, since there are no alternative sources of drinking water.”

Data from the project will be used to produce a report on the likely spill trajectory: how far and how quickly an oil spill will spread, and the locations where oil may accumulate. The local project is part of a larger one that includes similar drops of wooden cards in northwestern Ontario near the Manitoba border, other rivers in the Ottawa River watershed, and in the Bay of Fundy near Saint John, New Brunswick, the location of the tanker terminal where tar sands oil will be exported.

About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.

About ECOLOGY OTTAWA (www.ecologyottawa.ca): Ecology Ottawa is a not-for-profit, grassroots and volunteer-driven organization working to make Ottawa the green capital of Canada. We provide area residents with the information and tools they need to understand local environmental issues and promote environmental leadership.

About LES CITOYENS AU COURANT: Les Citoyens au Courant is a grassroots citizen group in Vaudreuil-Soulanges, working to raise awareness about the risks of the Energy East pipeline and other projects affecting the area.


For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Allen Braude, Environmental Defence, 416-323-9521 ext 247; 416-356-2587 (cell) abraude@environmentaldefence.ca