Unsafe In My Own Backyard

The winter of 2018 held on into 2019 far later and longer than it usually did. It was damp, chilly and miserable throughout April and into May. Even my perennials were at least two weeks behind schedule. When the weather improved I was happy to spend some time in the yard again.

I repainted my vintage patio set and hung up some leftover canvas drop cloths. The area beside the terrible fence still had 42″ chainlink.

patio.jpg

This had the gas station’s gas meter, and had become a dumping ground for whatever debris was abandoned – old tires, torn cloth flyers, partial boards and whatever else got dumped there. There was no gate to contain this, and the mess was visible in my yard, right next to my patio area.

dumpingground.jpg

At some point I noticed a black box on the ground, pushed right up against the fence towards my side. It was unmarked. At first I thought it had something to do with cable or internet. When I walked home from the library I noticed another one in the factory’s parking lot, pushed right up against the chainlink fence at the back of the lot. This one WAS marked, and I realized they were rodent bait traps. But this wasn’t even on the gas station’s property !

I did some googling, to find out what the laws were about these things, but could not find much information. I contacted Health Canada, and after a somewhat protracted inquiry process learned that the use of these horrible things was legal, even adjacent to a residence. I also learned what was in the bait stations: Bromadiolone.

http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/bromadgen.html

As I have cats, I have never had a rodent problem. I am also very careful with food storage, and have most of my loose food staples in jars or tins with tight lids. I never have dry cat food left out, either. The cats are fed at mealtimes and the empty dishes picked up.

While I compost, I also compost the cat’s wood based litter. The poop is scooped and flushed, the peed on pellets turn to sawdust. Cat urine is said to be a powerful mouse DETERRENT: https://www.hunker.com/13422387/how-to-get-rid-of-mice-with-cat-urine

The gas station has ongoing issues with staff not using the dumpster properly. I’ve complained about it before:

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/03/09/garbage-exasperation/

I’ll bet gas station customers dump all kinds of horrible trash in the cans by the pumps – rancid drive through food containers, junk food wrappers and anything else that might be floating around in a car or truck. As far as I can tell the convenience store does not sell any kind of fresh food. Many bottles, cans and wrappers end up in my yard.

This summer there were several small bags of wretched smelling garbage dumped by the tire compressor. I could sure smell them on my side. At the same time, the mountain of garbage built up beside the dumpster and stayed that way for close to a week, in the sweltering sun. Here’s a photo from the beginning of July, 2019:

july:19garbage.jpg

Here’s a photo from the end of July, 2019, featuring the horror garbage by the compressor:

endofjuly:19.jpg

Now if there was a rodent issue at the convenience store – which only sells pre-packaged foods in sealed containers – then the issue seems to be with SANITATION. Stinking bags of food related garbage, like leftovers and wrappers, that were not emptied daily into the locked dumpster seem much more likely to attract rodents than my compost, yard or garden. There were no rodent bait stations next to the dumpster or receptacles by the front door or pumps.

The menial retail jobs I’ve had always had rules about making sure the shop was tidy before it was opened, and before it was closed. I have a hard time understanding that a 24 hr store does not have rules about staff ensuring that the store and yard were tidy. If people dumped their trash on the gas station’s property – it was still the gas station’s responsibility to ensure the garbage was properly contained. Of course an enclosure around the dumpster would help with that a lot. Why isn’t there one ?

About the Bromadiolone: This is a powerful anticoagulant. Rodents who visit the bait station ingest the Bromadiolone, but it takes them close to five days to die. They bleed to death internally. This is much crueller than a snap trap.

http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/bromadgen.html

Many animals die from secondary exposure to Bromadiolone. A cat, or hawk or owl eats the poisoned (but still alive mouse), then dies from the anticoagulant the mouse consumed. Given that the station is approximately two blocks from wild parkland next to the river, this is unconscionable. This explains what happens:

https://www.audubon.org/magazine/january-february-2013/poisons-used-kill-rodents-have-safer

I have cats, including a couple who are mousers, that eat their prey. The presence of these bait stations has meant that I cannot even safely let these cats into their own yard !

Here’s a terrible account of what happened to one cat, from a cat rescue group in NYC (Little Wanderers, July 5, 2019, Facebook). Even the veterinarian could not save this cat, who was otherwise being treated for a minor wound:

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As far as I know, there are at least 11 cats that live on this street, and 6 dogs. Right across the street from the station are two sketchy rental houses with at least 2 dogs. As any pet owner knows, it can be impossible to see what your pet has in their mouth, if you’ve turned your head for even a moment. If your pet has suddenly become unwell, the ER Vet Clinic can do what they can to diagnose and treat your pet – IF you can afford it. Critical care for a pet can quickly cost thousands of dollars. If they can save your pet, they will – but there are no guarantees. They will do what they can. Despite this your pet may still die, and you have to pay that bill for services rendered.

You can call the Animal Poison Control Center, but even that phone call will cost $ 59.00 USD for someone to try to help you: https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com

I’ve been careful to not have toxic plants in my yard, I don’t use pesticides or herbicides and I am still not able to keep my pets safe on my own property due to someone else’s actions.

There’s many things a household or business can do to PREVENT a rodent infestation – most of them are common sense. Poisoning is such a hateful and lazy solution.

http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/2014/09/cruelty-free-pest-control-rats-and-mice/

https://www.jcehrlich.com/mice/why-are-there-mice-in-my-house/

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/pest-control-tips/rats-mice.html

 

 

 

Summer 2019: Fence Redaction

The terrible fence erected by the gas station hurt my brain every single time I looked at it. Through the winter, strong winds pushed it around. Since the 4 x 4 posts ARE NOT EVEN SET INTO ANYTHING the winds loosened up the weakest points. It was built at the end of August 2018. By Feb. 2019, the fence looked like this:

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Only the unused vintage light post stopped it from falling over completely:

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The guy who built the fence was bullied into making some kind of repairs, none of which could fix the lack of structural integrity.

Suddenly in June, part of the fence was disassembled. I had some hope that a properly constructed fence would be put up in its place.

fenceundone.jpg

The same guy who built the fence took the fence apart. I gave him the name of the posthole place I had previously used, and said the fence needed properly set posts. A gap was left in the fence, which exposed part of my backyard, which made me nervous. I screwed up part of a sheet of plywood to at least make access more difficult. After 10 days or so, work on the fence resumed.

Gas station’s solution: have the guy who made the terrible fence reassemble it in exactly the same way, but with gigantic 3″ screws this time. And a couple of extra boards. And a little more duct strapping to secure it to the 4′ former chain link posts, now augmented with another piece of post inside that one:

badfence repair.jpeg

No concept of the “good neighbour side” here.

London, unlike other civilized municipalities, makes no mention in the fence or property standards bylaw that the structure of the fence must be stable ! This is what the City of Ottawa’s Property Standards document says, for example:

https://ottawa.ca/en/property-standards-law-no-2013-416#part-i-obligations-and-repair-standards

“Section 10 – Fences and other enclosures

(1) Fences, retaining walls and other enclosures around or on a residential property shall be kept,

(a) in good repair;

(b) free from accident hazards;

(c) protected by paint, preservatives, or other weather resistant material, except for wooden fences made of cedar, redwood or treated wood;

(d) so as not to present an unsightly appearance;

(e) stable;

(f) vertical, unless specifically designed to be other than vertical as in the case of retaining walls; and

(g) free of barbed wire ”

The City of London is not Ottawa, though.

The 3″ screws poked through the boards in my direction, in a most alarming fashion.

I contacted the same posthole place I previously used, to inquire about how close to the retaining wall posts could be set on my side. The guy who came to quote was baffled by the fence the gas station built.

It was possible for the station to have posts professionally set into the asphalt surface on the gas station’s side, so I wasn’t just imagining an unworkable solution. It would also be possible for posts to be set very close to the retaining wall, on my side. HOWEVER – due to the difference in elevation (close to 48″), I would be breaking the fence bylaw to erect my own fence as tall as the gas station’s mediocre one. To build my own law-breaking-fence would easily cost close to $ 3000.00 including materials and labour. The city could force me to modify or remove the non-conforming potential fence.

I couldn’t look out my dining room, kitchen or back porch windows without seething at their fence atrocity. Walking out the front door was a little less bad, but it still wasn’t a neutral sight.

I pondered what could be done. The fence was so unstable it made no sense to attach some sort of covering like a trellis. I planted Smoke Bushes in the front, in 2017, but they will take 8 – 10 years to be tall and full enough to obscure the fence.

Painting my side seemed like an exercise in futility. There would be no way to control the drips onto their side. This was a labour intensive solution, and even the blackest paint could not obscure the fence’s obvious deficits.

I pursued information on the fastest growing hedge, vines and trees. For anything to grow 10 feet tall, to reach to the top of the fence, to densely obscure the offensive construction would take years to grow. Quick “solutions” like planting tall cedars were fairly expensive, and unreliable. I stared hard at all the local hedges I encountered, then looked backwards via Streetview to see how long they took to attain their height.

I wondered about hanging up some sort of privacy cloth. Proper canvas for exterior applications – like awnings – is made from acrylic, which has decent UV protection against fading and rot. This lasts for about 5 years until it starts to deteriorate. I priced various cloth options. The 6′ fence height meant that cloth would need to be horizontally pieced to make it wide enough. This volume of cloth, soaking wet from rain or snow, also gets heavy. I calculated that I would need 30 yards to cover their fence.

I noticed an ad for recycled billboard tarps. They were HUGE – 14 x 48′. They were printed on one side, and opaque black on the reverse. The vinyl was UV resistant and reinforced with fibers to strengthen it. This made me think. I went and looked at it once, then went back a second time to buy one. Each tarp weighs 40 lbs, and they are unwieldy. Even black plastic would be better to look at than the ghastly fence. This was the least expensive ( $ 80.00) and least labour intensive option.

It was nerve wracking marking and cutting the tarp. I didn’t have a space large enough to lay out the entire thing (ie trees and bushes in my yard) so I unrolled smaller sections and measured twice. I stitched the edges and installed grommets.

It was impossible to make the tarp sections lay flat due to the bizarre construction. I did what I could to make it presentable:

redacted1.jpg

The backyard had the worst, most seasick fence construction. I didn’t love installing the tarp, or the lack of smoothness, but my brain felt so much quieter not seeing the awful fence:

theworst.jpg

backtarp.jpg

The tarp is screwed to the fence, so it is completely removable. To install the sections meant standing on an extension ladder, with my weight leaning on the fence. To say this felt precarious is an understatement.

One small unexpected bonus of the tarps was the amount of lught they blocked. I was surprised to see how much light infiltrated between the fence boards. This is with the section to to the left covered, with two sections left to go:

fencelight.jpg

The redaction is a far from perfect solution but it is an improvement.

Now if only there was some kind of code or bylaw about commercial neighbours adjacent to a residence, light pollution, privacy, sound control and basic building code ???

 

 

 

“Just move your bedroom”

The light and sounds from the gas station really bothered me. While the station’s operation generated little noise – their customers had loud vehicles, booming car stereos, angry shouting people, and the thunking sound when the gas storage tank portals were driven over were intermittent and constant. And the stupid tire compressor, located 6′ from the property line, accessible by anyone 24/7, was audible in most of the rooms of my home.

If this had been a new development, the site plan would have required a buffer zone, with plantings to absorb some of the sound. The lot as it is would have NEVER passed current site plan approval, as it would be considered too small to incorporate buffer zones, adequate traffic flow plans, etc. It seems like another facet of the Class War that older “suspect” areas like EOA are subject to. A station planned (as in planned 70 years ago, then changed significantly) like the one next door would never happen next door to a new residential development.

Even though I had light blocking blinds, with curtains on top of them, light still crept under and around. The difference in the elevation between the area with the canopy and pumps, and my property on a lower grade meant that their excessive lighting had a greater effect than if we were on the same plane.

As spring began, I realized that I could not tolerate another summer’s worth of late night noise, puncturing my sleep. I could hear all this with my bedroom windows and storm windows closed. With no AC my windows upstairs were open May through September.

The house is modest, with two bedrooms upstairs. There is a small room off the dining room on the main floor that had been the sewing room. I decided to move my bedroom to the former sewing room, as it would be the darkest and most quiet.

It wasn’t as simple as just moving my bedroom contents to a different room and vice versa.

The switch meant that I had to fix the largest bedroom to accommodate my sewing machines. This was the only other room that could fit the tall bookcases that I stored my findings and tools in (the room I used as a bedroom had sloping walls the bookcases could not fit under). The walls and ceiling in the sewing room and large bedroom were terrible and needed extensive plaster repairs. I also needed some strange wiring undone to have an overhead light in the new bedroom. The previous owner installed three sconces – but ran the wires down the wall inside these weird wood structures the sconces were mounted on. This made arranging furniture in a tiny room nearly impossible, and I didn’t like how the mounts or sconces looked anyhow. Even if the wiring had been run inside the wall, I could have worked around the sconce location but the dumb mounts took up too much wall space.

The realtor’s (much lightened) photo shows the sconce situation. What were those mounts – giant needles ?

realtorgreenroom.jpg

I assumed the plaster had been cut to run the wires down so I was surprised when the mounts and sconces were taken down and the actual situation looked like this:

badwires.jpg

It was pointless to leave the rooms as is, as the problems were ugly and dysfunctional.

I did all the plaster repairs and painting myself. It wasn’t just patching a few nail holes. The previous owner had done some terrible things – including numerous patches with drywall that was too thick. The electrician needed to have a portion of the ceiling opened up to run the new wiring, which I had to close in afterwards.

Getting a electrician who would return my phone calls was a challenge. Even local companies in the immediate area who advertised small residential jobs wouldn’t call me back !

I had to purchase plaster, plaster washers, drywall screws, mesh tape, oil primer,  adhesion primer and wall and trim paint for three rooms. Displacing the contents of even one room at a time is disruptive and stressful. Plaster repairs take a long time to do, as thin coats need to be built up, then have to cure before they can be primed/painted. This was a less offensive solution than having some goons knock out the old plaster to slam in new drywall. Repair also generated the least waste.

I had to hire movers to get the bookcases and heavy machines up a flight of stairs. I had to wrassle my antique bed apart and get that down a flight of stairs by myself.

Once I was finally in the new bedroom, it WAS quieter. I wasn’t hearing any more 4:00 a.m. cel phone marathons in the parking lot . The twerp manager, who took many cigarette breaks, was a real chatterbox . The latest in pounding EDM tunes didn’t jar me awake now. Perfect ! And it only took months of labour and expense to get there.

Thanks gas station. You really helped improve my quality of life, by forcing me to change my priorities. It’s not like I could have used that $ 1000.00 or so for other useful expenses like food or vet bills.

(Not that the rooms didn’t need fixing – they did – but I had other projects that were forced aside so I could just get a decent night’s sleep. )

This is how much fixing the large bedroom room needed, including major work on the ceiling. I had to empty the three bookcases already in the room, then shove them around as there was nowhere else for them to go upstairs, due to the sloped ceilings:

badbedr1.jpg

badbr2.jpg

It took a very long time to get to this:

badbr1af.jpg

Then I had to do it again, to the future bedroom, including repairing the oppressive little L shaped closet that goes partially under the stairs:

badsew.jpg

badsew2.jpg

The little closet was its own nightmare:

badcloset.jpg

I was able to buy the paint at 25% off for this room, which was a small relief at least.

Then I had to fix my former bedroom(also painted the same dark army green as the former sewing room). The plaster was the least bad in this room, but it still needed lots of patching. Did I mention that each room had trim paint that was improperly applied so I had to scrape then paint out the charcoal grey with an adhesion primer before I could paint the trim ?

badfbedroom.jpg

I finally got to this. You can see it wasn’t as simple as “just switching rooms”:

fbedrafter.jpeg

Hey – look out the window. There’s the gas station !

 

 

 

I Contacted Health Canada

I sent this email on May 28, 2019:

” Hi Health Canada.

I am wondering if there are any studies about the air quality surrounding gas stations ?

I live in London, ON. The commercial lot next door was recently converted to a 24 hr gas station, and the vent for the underground storage tanks are now located 4′ from the property line, adjacent to my doors and windows. I have experienced gasoline vapours within my home on numerous occasions, during tanker refills, depending on the wind direction.

Does Health Canada have any studies or research about what a safe distance a residence should be from a gas station ?

I have been in contact with the TSSA and the Ministry of the Environment and have gotten nowhere with their representatives.

Thanks,

Andrea”

Health Canada replied on May 30, 2019:

“Thank you for contacting Health Canada.

Your recent inquiry has been redirected to the appropriate area for a response.

Sincerely, Health Canada ”

On June 10, 2019 I received this reply from ESRAB Director (Existing Substances Risk Assessment Bureau):

” Dear Andrea,

Thank you for your inquiry.

To date, Health Canada has not conducted any monitoring studies related to the air quality surrounding gas stations.

Gasoline is a complex mixture containing a number of chemicals, including benzene. Benzene was assessed by Health Canada in 1993 and found to be harmful to human health due to its hazardous properties. It was added to the List of Toxic Substances (schedule 1) of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. Many risk management actions are in place to reduce Canadian’s exposure to benzene, including the Benzene in Gasoline Regulations and the Gasoline and Gasoline Blend Despensing Flow Rate Regulations.

Health Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada are currently conducting a draft risk assessment of gasoline under Canada’s Chemical Management Plan. The draft conclusions on the potential human health and ecological risks will be published for public consultation. The assessment will consider exposure of Canadians to gasoline from periodic refuelling of vehicles, as well as long term exposure due to living near service stations and bulk gasoline storage facilities. You can sign up to be notified via email with updates that provide the latest news on actions being taken by the Government of Canada to assess and manage chemical substances under the Chemicals Management Plan here: http://www.chemicalsubstancesschimiques.gc/ca/listserve/index-eng.php

If you detect strong gasoline vapours, ensure that windows and doors to your home are closed and that household ventilation systems are well maintained and operating properly.

Health Canada recommends Canadians speak to their doctor or health care provider if they are concerned about their exposure tp gasoline.

If you repeatedly notice a strong gasoline odour in your house that you suspect may be coming from a nearby service station, health Canada recommends that you contact your local Provincial or Municipal Environmental or Health Department.

Ontario has Ontario regulation 455/94 RECOVERY OF GASOLINE VAPOUR IN BULK TRANSFERS, last amended as O. Reg.257/11 that describes the required infrastructure and actions for the filling of underground gasoline storage tanks. You may wish to discuss these requirements with the Ministry of the Environment representative.

Sincerely,

XXXXXXX XXXXXXXX

Acting Director, Existing Substances Risk asessment Bureau”

This vortex of unhelpful bureaucracy, felt like receiving a reply from an Orwellian robot.

Health Canada has never conducted ANY monitoring studies about air quality near gas stations ? After they have been in widespread operation for more than 100 YEARS ?! And I am advised to keep my doors and windows closed ? And to contact the local health department if I smell strong gasoline vapours ?

This nightmare just goes around in circles.

I Contacted the Public Health Department

My email, sent May 28, 2019:

” I am wondering if you could direct me to any guidelines regarding health and safety for people who live adjacent to a gas station ?

I am a resident of London. The commercial lot next to me was recently converted to a 24 hr gas station. The vents for the underground storage tanks are now located 4′ from the property line, and adjacent to the doors and windows in my home. When there is a tanker refuelling, depending on the wind direction, I often have gasoline fumes in my home, even with all the doors and windows closed.

Does the Public Health Department have any information about the effects this has on nearby residents, or other guidelines ?

I have been in contact with the TSSA and the Ministry of the Environment, and have gotten nowhere. There is nothing I can do to correct this situation.

Any information would be appreciated.

Thanks.

Andrea ”

Their reply, from a Public Health Inspector, May 28, 2019:

“Good Afternoon Andrea,

Thank you for sending along your email. The designation and approval for the placement of gas stations and other commercial properties is controlled by municipal planning and zoning, a department within the city of London which would be able to answer your questions more precisely in regards to this operation. As the City of London designates these locations, they should also be able to refer to best practices for the safe operation and prevention of volatile vapours such as gasoline. Although the Middlesex-London Health Unit does not specifically govern these types of land uses, the City of London in conjunction with the Ministry of the Environment should be able to assist you.

If you require further information or assistance please feel free to contact me.

Regards,

XXXXXX XXXXXXX BHSc, CPHI (C)

Public Health Inspector

Food Safety and Healthy Environments Team ”

I replied:

“Thank you for your prompt reply.

The previous use of that lot was a used car lot that sold a small amount of gas. As the building was renovated – no new construction – and there was no change of use, this was exempt from Site Planning Approval. The last site planning that occurred for this address happened approximately 70 years ago ! The previous business was open 8 hrs a day, 6 days a week. It is now a 24 hr business.

I have contacted all the local city departments, that I thought might help, including Site Planning, Bylaw Enforcement, etc. At present, the City of london does not even have a bylaw for nuisance lighting. I have also contacted the Ontario Fire Marshall’s office, who redirected me to the TSSA.

I have contacted the TSSA and the Ministry of the Environment. The TSSA is responsible for fuel handling, and therefore a municipality has no say in the location of the vents.

The TSSA sent an inspector. This was the same inspector who approved this vent location. How he has the authority to inspect his own work is beyond me.

Since the gas station has been open, I have had three cats develop a variety of health issues, including eye irritation and oral ulcers, another cat went into acute liver failure after several gasoline vapour infiltrations in one month, and a third cat became so ill with severe anemia and liver and kidney failure that she had to be euthanized. My vet clinic has little information about chronic exposure to gasoline vapours in cats, and less experience, as this is uncommon. None of these cats had these health issues before.

When the gasoline vapours infiltrate my house, there is nothing I can do to stop or mitigate this. I can’t even open a door or window as the vapours are coming from outside !

I have been told by the TSSA, and the Ministry of the Environment, that I must arrange for my own air quality tests, to prove there is an ongoing issue. This must be done by licensed environmental consultants – I cannot gather my own air samples. Each visit, with samples taken, lab work and a report costs $ 2200.00 plus HST ! There are no grants to assist a homeowner in this situation. The TSSA and Ministry of the Environment have taken NO air quality samples.

If there is another department that may be better able to assist with this situation, please direct me to them

Thanks,

Andrea”

To this email I received no reply.