Getting Nowhere with the TSSA and MOE

I contacted the person from the Ministry of the Environment, who had come with the TSSA inspector last time. February 2019 had THREE gasoline vapour infiltrations inside my home.

I was told that the TSSA inspector and the MOE representative would be present at a scheduled refuelling, and they would contact me in advance. I made sure I could be present.

They arrived as scheduled yesterday, March 14, 2019. I let them into my house and showed them the windows and doors. We walked around outside the house on the north side, so they could see that there were storm windows and storm doors, and no gaping holes in my exterior or rotten window frames with holes. We went into the basement, to establish that there were no gasoline odours seeping up through the slab. This would happen if the underground gasoline storage tank was leaking, or had leaked. They said they wanted to get a sense of what my house smelt like, prior to a tanker refuelling. I had been careful to not do any priming, in the bedroom with plaster repairs in progress.

Again, neither individual brought any type of equipment to gather air samples.

I predicted that there would NOT be a gasoline infiltration as the wind was blowing south – southeast. The TSSA dude tried to claim the wind was blowing in the opposite direction. This wasn’t what the Environment Canada website said, just a few minutes prior.

The TSSA representative tried to claim that that I did not understand the code pertaining to vents. Here’s that code again, from the 2017 TSSA Liquid Fuels Handling Code (SKU 2425551):

ventpipescode.png

He tried to tell me that this code ONLY pertained to vents on aboveground tanks, which this was not. I told him that the TSSA had emailed me this code in reply to my inquiry, so I did not have further context for this code. If I wanted to buy my own copy, the CSA (Canadian Standards Association) would be happy to sell me one, for $ 135.00:

https://store.csagroup.org/ccrz__ProductDetails?sku=2425551

(Why this code is not accessible public knowledge is a mystery to me. I could not find any PDF copies online. I asked at the library, thinking they might have access. The woman who helped me spent quite awhile searching, even Western University’s catalogue, but there was not a copy to be found. She also found the link where a copy could be ordered but on the library’s computer the price was $135.00 USD. She was baffled by the high price of the document, and the obstructive secrecy.)

He pulled up his copy of the code on his phone, which included the context for the section on vents. I read it, the MOE representative read it and oops ! It did NOT apply to aboveground gasoline storage tanks – these were excluded from this section. It was the correct section of code for venting on an underground tank. (WTF TSSA inspector ?!)

Eventually the tanker truck showed up to do a fill. I sat with the TSSA dude and the MOE dude in my kitchen, waiting to see if there would be a gasoline infiltration. The MOE guy looked out the window in the door, watching the vents, to see if he could see the vapours as they were venting.

As predicted, there was no gasoline infiltration. I have been upfront when I have reported the infiltrations to the Ministry of the Environment that the gasoline vapour infiltrations are NOT happening with every fill.

I explained, again, that as a homeowner – there was nothing I could do to correct this situation. Even a 20 foot tall solid masonry fence – which the city certainly would not permit – could not prevent the gasoline vapours from drifting over or around, to settle and sink into my yard or be forced through the small spaces around my windows and doors when the wind blows from the west or northwest.

Even if my house was sealed with windows that didn’t open – I would have a ventilation intake – probably on the north side of my house, as that was where the furnace and water heater were vented.

The TSSA dude suggested an air purifier. I strongly doubted this would help with gasoline vapours as they are designed for ordinary household issues – like damp, mold, smoking and pet allergens.

Despite the vent code stating plainly that the vents were to be located so that the gasoline vapours would not enter a building – it says this twice – or affect people – the TSSA dude continued to claim that the vent was in compliance.

I asked why the vent had been relocated, and he said that it was due to some electrical issue, and also the ventilation system for the convenience store. What ? That building was RENOVATED – and there was plenty of space for their ventilation system to go. In fact they had moved the entrance doorway. An underground gasoline storage tank is much bigger than any electrical components.

They sat around for about 45 minutes . There was no gasoline odour inside or outside my house.

Some stuff was said off the record – but overall what I was told came down to this:

  • since they had not witnessed a problem, they would not be returning for a further inspection. It was up to me to prove there is a problem
  •  if I continued to report these issues, and the TSSA inspector was sent again as a result, that I would be charged an hourly rate plus travelling time. Frankly, this felt like a threat
  • even if there was clear documentation of gas infiltration, that it would be up to the gas station owner to correct this problem (vent location), as on paper the vent location was in compliance with the TSSA’s CSA code

The burden of proof is on my shoulders. The TSSA, MOE or gas station owner or parent company is exempt from proving that there is NO PROBLEM.

Did I mention that I have emailed my local city councillor, Michael Van Holst a couple of times regarding this issue, and that he has never even acknowledged my emails ?

I’m not going to shut up and pretend there is no problem. There is a very serious problem, and I did not make it, and there is nothing I can do to mitigate it.

 

 

 

 

Air Quality Testing

I emailed all the environmental consultants in the area. Several of them followed up my inquiry with a phone call. This is what I learned about getting the air quality in my house tested for gasoline vapours and benzene:

  • there are tests using a cannister device where I could gather the air samples myself. However, these would not be admissable as evidence in a legal context as there is no way to verify that I took the samples where I did, when I did, and if I had attempted to skew the results or they were an honest sample
  • a professional could come to take air quality samples inside my home. These are considered reliable evidence. The cost for this would be approximately $ 2200.00, including a written report of the lab results. Of course this would be a matter of luck that the testing personnel would be here during a gasoline infiltration to gather the samples. Not every fill results in an infiltration, which seems to be dependent on the wind direction. Potentially I could spend many thousands of dollars before I had documentation that gasoline vapours were strongly present in my home during a tanker filling.
  • there are no grants for a homeowner in my situation
  • the burden of proof is that I must establish that gasoline vapours are entering my house. The gas station or parent company has no responsibility to disprove the presence of gasoline vapours on or in my property.

At no time has the TSSA or Ministry of the Environment taken any air tests to prove that the air quality adjacent to the vent is safe during a tanker refuelling. I know that it is not.

Garbage Exasperation

On numerous occasions I have observed a curious habit at the gas station.

Bags of garbage and miscellaneous debris are placed beside or behind their dumpster, but not IN it. I think it is locked, so perhaps staff cannot always find the key ? Several bags of garbage piled behind the dumpster for weeks froze onto the ground and sat there for more weeks. This week a disturbing bundle was wrapped in what appeared to be a pink child’s blanket. I hoped it wasn’t a dead animal. I prodded it with my foot, and it was plumbing or heating plastic elbow joints = ???

Now the gas station can’t stop people from attempting to put their trash into their dumpster (ie private rental property they pay for). However – the staff could certainly put all trash adjacent to the dumpster, IN the dumpster. This is a minimum expectation for staff.

This is the reason that enclosures are built around dumpsters – to make them less terrible to look at, and so people who aren’t authorized users have less access to them.

When there’s a windy day, the trash that isn’t frozen to the ground blows down the street. No one recovers the XL box from the display drink cooler, or the packaging from lighters or bulk chocolate bars. None of this debris comes from any other neighbours.

Why aren’t they recycling the cardboard ?

It’s maddening. I walked by this trash for a week until I photographed it today. Seriously.

marchgarb1.jpg

marchgarb2.jpg

 

 

 

Speaking With Property Appraisers

(Image : 550 Hamilton Road, where the Crouch Public Library now stands. This house has an identical front porch to mine, which I haven’t seen elsewhere)

A couple of the realtors I had spoken with had been very helpful, and recommended property appraisers.

I contacted those ones, and others I found online.

I discovered that since my property was zoned residential and commercial, that a residential appraiser could not do the appraisal. An appraisal of a residential/commercial property was more complicated and expensive.

I also learned that if I needed the appraisal for a legal purpose, that it should be done on the advice of my lawyer which I suppose has specific areas of relevancy vs my general curiosity. An appraisal has a shelf life, so an appraisal done in March, 2019 would not be very useful by December, 2020. Also news to me.

My biggest question was whether the gas station vents had devalued my property to land value only ?

No one could answer this question. One guy said he would speak with a senior colleague – and actually did – and called me back several days later. No one I spoke with had any experience dealing with a residential property that was negatively affected by a commercial neighbour’s actions in this capacity.

Again, there was no simple answer or real estate algebra that could answer my questions.

Talking to Realtors

I wondered if an experienced realtor could give me professional insight on what effect the gas station and vent situation were having on the value of my property.

I contacted several London realtors who had a variety of years in the profession. All of them had an office near this area or had recently represented property in the tainted EOA area.

I wondered if there was some secret guidebook they had to do a valuation, like ” Good landscaping adds $ 5000.00, ugly exterior paint color loses $ 3000.00, etc.”

I was upfront that I was not ready to list my property, but hoped that they could offer their opinion. No one was willing to speak on the record. I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time, so no one actually visited my house though a couple drove by to have a general look, and everyone looked at Streetview.

I emailed them all a similar inquiry where I mentioned that I was now next to a 24 hr gas station/convenience store and wondered how this might affect my property value ?

No one said that it INCREASED my property value. The location near a busy street was a deficit, as was the neighbourhood due to the lower values in the area.

The approximate valuation they could give me was speculative – based on the comparable solds from the area. The value of a property is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.

As we got futher into the conversation, I explained about the vent location and the problems thereof. A couple of the realtors didn’t seem to take my description seriously and acted like I was complaining about engine exhaust. No one said that my home might be worth $ XXX, XXX but due to the vent location the value would be reduced by $ xx,xxx

I said that I knew that I was legally obligated to disclose this negative issue, or else I potentially opened myself to litigation. A neighbour in Toronto hadn’t disclosed  water infiltration in their basement, which was an ongoing issue they never remedied, nor the owners before them, and had to give the buyer back $ 50,000 due to this.

https://www.thestar.com/life/homes/2017/01/07/what-sellers-must-disclose-about-a-home-ask-joe.html

It gets even more complicated as the defect I would have to disclose is not actually even on my property ! Due to the actions of the TSSA’s approval and the Petroleum Contractor who did this modification a serious issue had resulted that I felt made my property unsaleable as residential or even commercial/light industrial property. Who would buy a home that is periodically filled with gasoline vapours ?

A couple of the realtors said that I should just sell and move, and not disclose this. Take the money and run. I argued that I had made numerous reports to the Ministry of the Environment and the TSSA so I could not claim I did not know there was a problem.

One realtor told me I should not attempt to go public about my situation, as it would give my property a stigma, which would last in the public memory, and potentially render it unsaleable.

All the realtors suggested I what I needed was an appraisal, which would be admissible in a legal context, whereas a suggested listing price would not be.

Conversational Gems: Property Values

(Image by Lee Miller)

While having one of several spats with the gas station manager, he claimed that having this gas station and convenience store next door to my house would increase my property value.

Citation needed, young dude.

Here’s an article titled ” 10 Industries that Diminish Property Values the Most”:

https://housely.com/industries-that-diminish-property-values-the-most/

Convenience store with gas station, # 2 on that list.

“Cemeteries, highways, gas stations: Here’s what decreases your property value”:

https://www.lowestrates.ca/blog/homes/cemeteries-highways-gas-stations-can-decrease-property-value

Community and Environmental Defense Services, a US organization has a long article with many links about gas stations and convenience stores, and the impact they may have on a community.

http://ceds.org/convenience.html

The article breaks down the issues which are about zoning, groundwater pollution and the health impacts on people living in the area, and addresses negative issues like lighting, noise, increased crime, traffic and blighting.

“How Safe are Gas Stations ?”

https://frontporchne.com/article/safe-gas-stations/

This article addresses a gas station/convenience store’s impact on a neighbourhood, even the ones that are “sited with intent” but also addresses gas stations “long term offsite impacts”.

I couldn’t find any articles about how a convenience store/gas station improved the property value of area residents, though I tried.

I mean – I understood that the location of my house between a factory and a used car lot was going to affect the value. If I was in a beautiful location in the nicest part of town with the same house my property would have cost more. If my house was in a terrible location in Toronto it would be worth at least 5x as much. That’s the value of location. However, I did not know that the City of London offers no protection for a house that is situated next to a commercial property, unless the commercial property is a brand new development from scratch.

Due to the TSSA’s stranglehold on fuel handling code, no Ontario municipality has ANY say about how far a vent has to be located from a residence, or the distance a gas station must be from a residence. However, many much smaller municipalities do have explicit bylaws about fencing between a commercial property and a residence, enclosures for garbage, landscaping and buffering zones:

Click to access 06.pdf

Prince George, B.C. has a population of approximately 74,000.

London, ON’s 2016 census says it had a population of 494, 069 in the greater metropolitan area. What gives, City of London ?