A Saanich home that was the site of a large heating oil spill last February was torn down this week to allow for environmental repair of the property.
The spill, which occurred on Feb. 3, 2012, was the fourth incident in Saanich since November 2011 in which home heating oil leaked into the natural surroundings.
This spill, however, wasn’t the result of a faulty tank or fuel line. Rather, an employee of Island Pacific Oil pumped more than 300 litres of heating oil into the wrong house on Adelaide Avenue – one that didn’t burn oil for heat.
Dave Rogers, senior incident commander for B.C. Hazmat, said the property at 2853 Adelaide Ave. should have been torn down in February to get access to whatever oil may be left on the property. It took until now for Pacific Oil and the homeowner to come to an agreement on a remediation plan.
“The problem is the house is built on top of a huge, huge rock, and … the oil just flowed on top of this huge rock,” Rogers said. “We couldn’t get underneath the house (to access the oil) without destroying the integrity of the house.”
Crews from B.C. Hazmat were on site this week tearing down the home and clearing the lot. Next week they’ll be back at the site taking their cues from Jed Clampett, as Rogers puts it. “We’re looking for oil.”
Because B.C. Hazmat contained much of the spilled oil in February, Rogers says there are no greater environmental concerns on the property now than when the spill occurred.
Although the oil is contained, it’s still on the property, and it needs to be extracted and removed, as mandated by the Ministry of Environment.
Before the province will sign off on an oil spill site, it needs to be proven that the groundwater is as clean as drinking water, Rogers said. “That’s how clean we have to get it.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment said Island Pacific Oil immediately acknowledged responsibility for the spill and has been working with the homeowner since February.
Calls for comment to Island Pacific Oil and Federated Insurance, Island Pacific’s insurance company, were not returned by the News deadline.
The Adelaide Avenue property has two main pockets of contamination – at the front of the house and under the foundation in the back south side. B.C. Hazmat plans to dig out soil and have it tested for hydrocarbons until it finds only clean earth. Contaminated soil will be trucked off site.
Rogers anticipates work on the Adelaide Avenue property – from cleanup and teardown costs, to building a new home – will reach $750,000.
“This one was extreme. We’ve never had to tear (a house) down because of an oil spill before,” he said. “This was just an unfortunate mistake.”
Last winter and spring saw six known oil spills occur in Saanich. Two of those spills saw a combined 1,600-plus litres contaminate the Colquitz River.
Rogers says his company usually responds to one oil spill per month on Vancouver Island. Since January, B.C. Hazmat has responded to 36 spills south of Comox.
"The message that we're trying to get out (to heating oil tank owners) is replace your tank every 15 years and replace your lines at the same time," Rogers said. "Your tank can look great on the outside, but it rots from the inside out, so you can't see it."