Light Blight

That’s the side of my house that faces the gas station. The strip of shadow is where the fence ends. Those windows belong to my (former) bedroom, the dining room below, and the kitchen (with the back door). It’s not shown but the french door to my back porch behind the kitchen is also well lit. It looks like this every single night.

I took these photos with my camera on a basic setting. I haven’t tinkered with them to lighten them. The camera makes computerized adjustments.

This is what it looks like from the street. There’s a streetlight a little ways down, towards Hamilton Rd. It’s bright enough with just that. One photo is lighter than it looks in real life, the other is darker. Imagine something in between:



That would be a reasonable amount of light to be directed at the side of my house. The difference is obvious.

Because the gas station is on the most elevated portion of the street, and the way that the canopy and pumps are arranged, the headlights from a large truck or SUV that pull in from Hamilton Rd sweep across four of the houses across the street, right at the level of their living room windows. I am confused why my neighbours are not furious about this. This is a completely predictable outcome ! This is an issue about the elevation of the gas station property, but also the PLANNED direction for gas station customers. The pumps and canopy could have been oriented  perpendicular to this street. That way the canopy would have completely sheltered customers as they walked from the pump to the convenience store, and headlights would not affect any residential properties. This is a couple of  houses right across the street when the headlights sweep across:


This is what it looks like inside my former bedroom at night. This is facing the gas station. My half curtains are semi-opaque:


Viewed from the hall:


With the windows at my back facing the hall:


In the hall and stairwell. The light shines through the doorway and transom and illuminates the far side of the house ! From dusk until dawn.


This is excessive and unnecessary. Other municipalities actually have laws which address light pollution and light infiltration. Not London, Ontario, though !

Click to access nuisancelighting2013.pdf

Toronto has a very comprehensive document about effective lighting in an urban context:

Click to access 8ff6-city-planning-bird-effective-lighting.pdf

Did you know that the light from bright LEDS can cause negative effects on humans, including permanent retinal damage ? And endocrine disruption ? And serious negative effects on wildlife ?

Many businesses (and people) believe that bright lighting prevents crime. There have been studies which contradict this. One even found that criminals PREFERRED bright locations, as it helped them to see what to steal, and it made THEM feel safer !

Click to access LightingForSafetyAndSecurity.pdf

Obviously the Dark Sky Society has an agenda – less light pollution. Here’s more information about lighting, safety and crime:

Lighting, Crime and Safety

Here’s an interesting study about service station lighting that shows that reduced and shielded lighting for gas stations actually increased sales at those stations:

Service Station Lighting

Click to access canopy.pdf

My neighbour’s excessive lighting actually makes my property less safe. The glare from the EXTREMELY BRIGHT lights over the tire compressor make it impossible to see details in my front and back yard. If this lighting was replaced with a lower, shielded task lighting, none would infiltrate my property. Tire compressor users would also probably have a better time seeing what they are doing. As it is the light is above and behind the compressor – making the instructions for use harder to read. That light is much brighter than at my doctor’s exam room – yet no surgery of any kind is performed by the tire compressor. The lighting could also be motion sensitive – so it would only come on when in use.

It all brings me back to questions about why this is exempt from City Planning and bylaw enforcement ? It is excruciating to look at and serves little positive purpose.

Talking To Petroleum Contractors

I have no information about which company did the installation of the new gas storage tank and modified vent location. Whoever it was were just following instructions, within the limits of code, as they understood it.

I contacted a bunch of petroleum contractors via email, to see if it would be possible for the vent location to be moved.  I chose them randomly, and sent them all the same inquiry. Some were more willing to engage than others. My inquiry read:

” Hi. I am wondering if someone could answer a somewhat broad question for me ?

I live next to a gas station that was recently renovated. The vents for the underground storage tanks are now 4′ from the property line, adjacent to my doors and windows. As a result, I have the infiltration of gasoline vapours into my home during a tanker refuelling, depending on the wind direction.

Is it possible for the vent location to be moved ? If so, what does this entail, and what is the approximate expense ?

I understand that your answer is not a quote, and obviously the logistics would depend on the specifics of the station. Any general information regarding this matter would be appreciated.

I have reported this to the TSSA and the Ministry of the Environment many times.



The most minimalist reply I received was this:

“The vents can be relocated by digging up the area and modifying the route of the piping.”

Others were more helpful:

“If the MOE and TSSA are unable to help, I would contact the Fire Prevention Department . There is no limit to the height of the vents, so they could be raised higher to be above any openings. Hope this helps.”

” So sorry for your issue. The only other option would be to have another contractor inspect it.”

This person sent a diagram of a truck loading and advice about how to identify the vapour recovery hose in use.

This contractor said: ” I would recommend the vents be extended to get the vapours away from your door/windows. It is potential (sic) a serious health concern with the chemical compounds in fuel vapour.”

This contractor offered : “Please note that the vents appear to meet the code. The issue of vapour recovery is an environmental one. Even if they use the vapour recovery, if they can drop fuel too fast (as is the case because the drivers are paid by how many loads they deliver in a day), the vapour recovery can’t handle the vapour flow rate. They either have to slow the flow or install larger vapour recovery.”

More about that: ” The placement of the tank vents, while legal, was a bad design, but there is a requirement that the site have and use a vapour recovery system on the gasoline tanks. If they are using it, and you are getting fuel odours during a fuel drop, it is undersized for the fuel drop rate. They either have to increase the capacity or slow the drop rate. This falls under Environment not TSSA and they are notoriously poor at pursuing these cases.”

One of them sent a couple of excerpts from the fuel handling code. I learned how far an underground storage tank had to be from a property line (a question the TSSA would not answer for me): 1.5 meters. That’s 59.1 INCHES.

2.2.1. Location of tanks

An underground storage tank shall not be installed

(a) inside or under any building;

(b) less than 1 m from a building;

(c) less than 1.5 m from a property line;

(d) less than 60 cm from an adjacent underground storage tank;

(e) less than 15 m from drilled water wells;

(f) less than 30 m from a dug water well or waterway; and

(g) where the loads carried by a building foundation or supports could be

transmitted to the tank.

So now – would you feel safe eating anything planted in my garden ? The brightest areas are closely adjacent to those vent pipes…