WATERFORD – The Western Foothills Land Trust will walk a portion of the Portland Pipeline along the Crooked River on Sunday to call attention to the potential environmental danger of transporting tar sands from Montreal to Portland through the pipeline.

The pipeline transports conventional crude oil from tanker ships in South Portland 236 miles to Montreal. It runs along and crosses some of Maine’s most critical lake and river watersheds, including the Crooked River, Androscoggin River and Sebago Lake.

Last week, a group of environmental advocates said they had evidence that Exxon Mobile and others are backing a plan to allow a Canadian oil pipeline company to pump tar sands oil through the 62-year-old Portland Pipeline for export to global markets.

“We want to put the companies on notice that there’s a real concern about bringing tar sands down (the pipeline)”  Western Foothills Land Trust member Bart Hague of Waterford said Monday. Hague will lead the walk, which is open to the public, on Oct. 21 beginning at 1 p. m. at the pipeline corridor where it crosses Mill Hill Road in Waterford.

Experts say the tar sand oil must be diluted with toxic chemicals such as benzene and piped at higher pressures and heat levels than light crude for it to flow. Environmentalists and others are concerned that the extra stress placed on the pipeline could increase the potential for leakage of the toxic material from the aging pipeline.

Hague said the land where the walk will take place is a “very critical” portion of the Crooked River, which supplies 39 percent of the direct flow into Lake Sebago. The lake is greater Portland’s drinking water supply.

The Land Trust has been vocal about protecting the Crooked River’s upper most watershed to maintain its Class AA water quality. In addition to being a source of drinking water, the river is also home to a genetically unique landlocked Atlantic salmon fishery protected by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.  It has been designated as one of Maine’s Outstanding Rivers under state legislation.

Despite their concerns, both Hague and Lee Dassler of the Western Foothills Land Trust say they have had a good relationship with the Portland Pipeline officials for years and they are only concerned with the possibility of the pipeline transporting tar sand oil.

“It is important to note that we fully support the Portland Pipeline as it is currently utilizing the pipeline,” Dassler said in a statement this week. “It is not our intent to stop the flow of regular oil through the Portland Pipeline as is happening now. It is simply our intent to prevent tar sands from flowing through the pipeline due to the increased risk of a spill as a result of abrasive/corrosive materials contained in the tar sands.”

Hague said the group will also discuss the adverse effect that ATV use on land next to the river is having and other related issues.

Directions for Sunday’s walk are: Take Route 118 in Norway toward Waterford. Turn onto Route 117 at the head of Norway Lake (Pennesseewassee Lake.) Take the first right onto Sodom Road. Travel approx. 4.5 miles.

From Waterford at the intersection of McWain Hill Road and Mill Hill Road go 1.2 miles east toward Norway.)

Dassler said walkers should bring water to drink and snacks, and wear comfortable outdoor clothes and good outdoor footwear.

For more information call Dassler at 207-739-2124 or email her at [email protected]

Bart Hague can be reached at 207-583-4439 or by email at [email protected]

[email protected]

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