NNSL Photo/Graphic

Canadian North

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Fuel spill at city-owned property

Simon Whitehouse
Northern News Services
Published Friday, May 11, 2012

Three months after spending nearly $1 million to purchase three lots next door to the Gold Range, the city is in a sticky situation after a major fuel spill from the InstaLoan's diesel tank.

NNSL photo/graphic

Workers erect a barrier at the parking lot beside Corner Mart close to where a fuel tank supplying the InstaLoan outlet spilled up to 2,300 litres of diesel last month. - Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

According to a recent spill report obtained from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, a leak was discovered April 14 from the tank located in the alley behind the InstaLoan. The report estimated between 1,800 and 2,300 litres of diesel spilled from the location, however, the final figure could not confirmed because "fence, building and snow cover" made the tank inaccessible for inspection at the time of the report.

The department estimates the spill spread over an area of between two to 50 square metres.

An employee at InstaLoan, who asked not to be named, said the tank was filled up on April 2 by PetroCan, but on April 12 there was no heat coming from the boilers.

It was first assumed after checking the fuel tank that someone was siphoning fuel, so a lock was put on the tank. When Wiseman's Plumbing and Heating investigated on April 14, however, it was determined that all the fuel had leaked out.

"We reported about the fuel spill and (the city) cleaned it up a couple of days ago and dug it all up and put sand on it," said the worker.

"It had leaked and went underneath Corner Mart's building. They could smell it in their building but we couldn't smell it in ours."

The worker said while she didn't know the cause of the leak. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources indicated while on site that the tank "was really ancient old." The tank has now been replaced and according to the worker, Wiseman Plumbing and Heating installed a new tank and set up the boiler so that the company could have heat.

According to the worker, the fire department conducted a sniffer test Wednesday, which InstaLoan passed.

"We passed the sniffer test and there was no fumes in our building," the employee said.

"If we had failed the sniffer test, then Health Canada would have had to have gotten involved and shut us down. But we passed so we didn't have to be shut down."

The city acquired three lots on 50 Street in January, including the InstaLoan, Corner Mart and neighbouring parking lot for $975,000. The city purchased the properties with a goal of reinvigorating downtown, which may include the construction of low-cost "eco-housing" condo units for residents on a budget. For now the city remains landlord for the businesses still occupying the properties.

Mayor Gord Van Tighem confirmed the leak behind the InstaLoan when contacted Wednesday. A safety barrier was erected Thursday morning in the parking lot against the wall of Corner Mart.

Van Tighem said a property inspection was completed before the purchase was made.

The full cost of the leak remains unknown because the ground has not been entirely dug up, he said.

"Now that the ground is thawed, (city) people are working on it," he said. "(The city) have had an engineering study done on it and they worked out the scope of work and now they are starting to do the clean up. When we bought the property there was an inspection done and subsequently something happened to one of the tanks and it leaked."

Van Tighem said the building is insured but couldn't confirm the figure, saying it is "a big policy." City workers are digging out the parking lot this week to determine the extent of the damage, he said.

"Fuel leaks are not necessarily inexpensive and they are frequently insured," said Van Tighem.

"I am pretty sure the assessment is pretty well done, but if they are digging, you don't know what you will find."

City councillors contacted this week said they were limited as to what they could say about the issue because it remains a matter for in-camera discussions.

Coun. David Wind did say that because the ruptured tank was so large there could be a substantial amount spilled.

"What is interesting is this happened so quickly after the city took ownership of the property in January" he said.

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.