Start Here. All Will Be Explained.

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Okay – so I can’t figure out how to make an archive or search feature. Bear with me. If you click on one of the pages there are tags that will take you to similar topics. I’m inserting some links to create a basic synopsis of what is going on with this blog, house and situation:

I bought this house in the fall of 2016, and moved here in November 2016.

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/10/31/trying-to-leave-toronto/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/11/08/looking-for-a-home/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/11/08/why-did-you-buy-such-an-old-house/

The heritage tag is a grab bag of related topics. My house is currently under review for Heritage Designation :

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/heritage/

This neighbourhood had some problems, that was obvious. It still seemed less bad than where I had previously been.

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/11/13/east-of-adelaide/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/11/18/john-troubles/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/10/28/nightmare-apartment-nightmare-neighbours/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/10/28/preface/

I thought the house had some really great things going on with it. I loved all the original details. I liked that while it was in plain sight, that it was also private, and far enough away from neighbours, or so I thought.  I knew I didn’t want to live near student rentals, frightening rooming houses, an Air B n B, or anywhere that there was a lot of human intrusion. Commercial neighbours seemed ideal.

The house had a serious case of deferred maintenance, and some unsettling color choices. I was prepared for all the undoing and re-doing. It only took three years to get this point.

I did as much as I knew how to do, which was sourcing vintage or antique salvaged materials, stripping paint, plaster repairs, prepwork, basic demolition and more painting. I had a series of exasperating experiences trying to find professionals who would even work on my house in this area. The contempt and derision from professionals who I would be potentially paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars to work on my house was pretty astonishing. I did not hire anyone who with a bad attitude towards me or my house. Your loss, dudes !

If you are THAT interested the DIY tag will take you through the greatest hits:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/diy/page/1/

The Before and During tag will take you down a similar route:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/before-and-during/page/1/

In context of the whole, it shouldn’t matter whether I spruced up the entire house, or only changed a lightbulb.

What I didn’t expect to butt up against were the grave deficiencies in bylaws and building code within the City of London. I didn’t expect that Site Plans from 70 years ago, that do not even have a written record, would be considered acceptable without periodic review for modern industry. When I bought this house, my neighbour was a used car lot that sold a little gas. It was open 8 hours a day, 6 days a week. The lot was sold, then renovated by a gas station flipper then sold again to a buyer who I suppose wanted a turn key business. I am now living next to a 24 hour gas and convenience store.

This was possible as the City of London does not require a site plan review if a building is renovated, and there is no change of use. The City also does not require any sort of community input from businesses that want to operate 24 hours a day, even if they are right next door to and/or close to other residences. This is a real problem in areas with a history of street prostitution, drug dealing, drug houses and petty crime. Things like 24 hour convenience stores create a plausible deniability for the creepy johns and drug buyers that cruise my neighbourhood, especially after dark.

The City’s only concern is the correct zoning for the land usage. Yet this planning creates a two tiered standard of development. My new neighbour would not have been permitted to create what they made in a new development from the ground up – there would be guidelines for the square footage, traffic control, buffer zones, lighting, garbage containment and so on.

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/08/city-of-london-site-planning/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/07/site-planning-and-gas-station-design/

You can wade through the whole stinking mess with the Hey City of London ! tag:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/hey-city-of-london/

What it comes down to is that the City of London offers NO protection for a residence that is next to a commercial property. A residence thusly located does not have the same rights as other residences, with regards to quiet enjoyment, privacy, safety or even darkness. A residence next to a commercial lot has no rights to freedom FROM their commercial neighbour’s activities. The City of London does not even have ANY bylaws about light pollution or infiltration. Ask me how I know:

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/10/02/light-blight/

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I complained when the headlights from gas station customers shone in my dining room and kitchen windows. My elevation was about 48″ lower. The gas station manager said they would put up a fence. No one ever shared quotes with me or asked for a carpenter or post hole recommendation. Decisions were made unilaterally – though the gas station manager first expected that I would contribute $ 2500.00 towards this fence – quotes unseen. This is the fence my commercial neighbour erected – then demanded I contribute $ 1000.00 towards. I refused ! This the fence that I see when I look out my dining room, kitchen, back porch and west bedroom windows:

 

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The 4 x 4 posts are not even securely or properly anchored. Do you trust this construction method ? I do not trust this construction method:

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This is how the front section looked 6 months after it was built. The entire fence flaps back and forth in the wind, as there are no posts set into the ground, and only a small amount of DUCT STRAPPING tethers it to the previous chainlink fence posts:

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Did you know that the City of London’s fence bylaw does not even have a clause which addresses structural stability ? And that there is no requirement of a 24 hour commercial business with vehicular traffic to erect an opaque fence, if they are next to a residential neighbour ? There might be, for a new development, built from the ground up – but not for the Site-Plan-Absent ones that get grandfathered in.

The Hey Look At That Fence tag will take you through the saga:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/hey-look-at-that-fence/

An even worse discovery was made after the gas station renovation was complete. The vent pipe for the gas station’s underground gas storage tank had previously been located on the northeast corner of the property – next to the industrial neighbour’s parking lot. In the 13 months I lived here, while the used car lot was open, I only smelt gasoline vapours once during a tanker fill. This was a day we were working on the kitchen, so we were in and out of the back door many times to access the saw which was set up outside. We could smell this in the yard. I never smelt gasoline in my house.

(That single pipe sticking up over the roofline was the vent location for the underground gas storage tank until spring 2018)

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When the station was renovated, the vent location for the underground tanks was changed. It was now located 4 feet from the property line. I thought little of this. That was until the day in August, 2018 when suddenly my entire house was flooded with gasoline vapours, which entered through my open windows. It was horrible. I photographed the tanker doing the fill and the driver was not even using the vapour recovery system, as required by law. This is where the real nightmare begins.

(Those three silver pipes on the left are the new location for the vent pipes.)

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https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/02/first-gasoline-infiltration-august-11-2018/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/10/boring-but-important-gas-station-vapour-recovery-system-explained/

I contacted the TSSA – The Technical Standards and Safety Association. They are the only entity with jurisdiction over liquid fuel handling. They are so opaque as to be obstructive:

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/02/hey-tssa-thats-not-okay-part-1-july-2018/

At first I was told they would not answer my questions without a fee of $ 120.00, and I would have to wait 120 days for a reply ! After much phoning and emailing I was finally given an excerpt from their Liquid Fuel Handling Code – which is not available through any library system, including University collections. I could purchase my own copy ($ 135.00 plus HST) though, from them. Their code, as it pertains to the vent location states:

ventpipescode.png

There was not even a code which addressed residences next to a gas station, bulk loading facility, etc. There was NO CODE for residential neighbours.

It took about a year, but I also discovered how far from a property line an underground gasoline storage tank was permitted to be: 1.5 m. That’s a little over 59″ ! Again there was no separate code for a residential property line. Despite the decades of documentation of LUSTS in North America – Leaking Underground Storage Tanks – that poisoned communities, contaminated groundwater and created clusters of Acute Myeloid Leukemia – this is acceptable code in Ontario in 2019 !

I made multiple complaints to the TSSA and the Ministry of the Environment Pollution Spill Reporting Hotline whenever gasoline vapours entered my home during a tanker refuelling. As the weather got colder, I discovered this would happen even with all my doors and windows closed ! And I had storm windows on most of my windows, weather stripping, and doors and windows that fit properly. The gasoline infiltrations would happen whenever there was a wind from the west or northwest.

Eventually the TSSA sent an inspector to my house. He came without any testing equipment whatsoever, and said that he was relying on his sense of smell to assess the issue. It turned out that this inspector was the same person who had approved the vent location to be relocated to 4′ from my property line, adjacent to all my doors and windows. How he had the authority to inspect his own work is beyond me.

When I purchased this house, I did not expect that my home would be periodically infiltrated by volatile and carcinogenic gasoline vapours, as a result of the TSSA’s actions, and that they would claim this vent location is acceptable within their code.

Wade through the Hey TSSA ! It’s Not Okay ! tag at your own risk:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/hey-tssa-its-not-okay/

I did not expect that my pets would become ill or gravely ill after the renovated gas station opened in July, 2018:

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/26/canaries/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2020/01/04/two-more-canaries/

I did not expect that I would need to consider the implications of waiting for my own Acute Myeloid Leukemia to happen. Benzene is an additive to gasoline. It has been known for over 100 years that workers, children and animals exposed to chronic levels of benzene develop blood cancers, cardiovascular issues, neurological problems. Some light reading about the effects of benzene exposure, and the effects of living close to gas stations can be found under the tag Health Questions, Serious Ones:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/health-questions-serious-ones/

I have gone in circles phoning and emailing municipal, provincial and federal government entities about my issues with the gas station next door. Without exception, they have all deferred to the TSSA.

The City of London has a bylaw that smoking is not permitted within 9m of the entrances to municipal buildings and recreational facilities (https://www.london.ca/city-hall/by-laws/Documents/smoking-recreation-areas.pdf) but nothing on the books that a commercial entity is not permitted to fill an adjacent property with volatile and carcinogenic vapours.

There is nothing I can do to correct or mitigate the vent location. If I attempted to sell my property, I would need to disclose this extremely serious defect – that is not even a result of my own actions.

This blog is a documentation of my experiences with this matter, but I hope the information can help other people in this situation. This is disgraceful.

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Two More Canaries

(Image by Win Wallace)

Since the gas station opened in July 2018, I have dealt with five acutely ill cats, three of whom became so sick they needed to be euthanized. They had prompt, aggressive and thorough veterinary treatment. In the 30 years that I have had cats, fostered cats, helped stray cats I have never had to euthanize three cats within 10 months.

None of these cats were related to each other. None of these cats had a contagious disease. None of these cats were sickened as a result of a nutritionally incomplete or tainted diet. None of these cats had previously been ill with the conditions that led to their humane death. None of these cats were frail or super geriatric.

I can’t prove that the continous gas vapour infiltrations are the culprit. However, I think anyone in my situation would tend to wonder what WAS sickening the cats in my household. I believe what is happening is the cumulative effects of this exposure, that is affecting their immune system. If the exposure to the gasoline vapours were concentrated enough, the cats would all be in the same acute respiratory distress. During an infiltration they all act pretty normal. However – chronic exposure to benzene has been proven to induce a certain type of leukaemia in humans. Children are especially vulnerable to this exposure. There are cardiovascular, and neurologic effects that are well documented, too. Gasoline has many chemical additives. There used to be lead, until that was proven without a doubt to be heinous, and removed from the market. Who knows (except a petroleum industry chemist or researcher) what the myriad of additives to a particular brand of gasoline are ? What are the effects on humans and animals ? Has anyone connected the research dots yet ? Or is this information being suppressed ?

Tonight ( Jan. 4, 2020) there was another gasoline vapour infiltration. I photographed the tanker refuelling and it appeared the driver was not even using the vapour recovery system as required BY LAW. There was a WNW wind blowing. I started smelling gas at 5:30 p.m.. By 5:40 p.m. the entire house STUNK like gasoline. By 7:30 p.m. – I could still smell gas. My eyes burn and my head aches. Of course I reported this. The person who answered my call at the Ministry of the Environment Spill Reporting Hotline was a voice I have previously spoken to numerous times. I have to report the same details each time, then I get an ID number. I write this down. Then…nothing happens. The Ministry of the Environment has never issued a written document or report with regards to my numerous complaints. The TSSA has never given me a single report in writing either. Neither entity is responsible for even taking air or soil samples to prove what is coming out of the vent pipes is safe at this proximity !

Next Canary :

Grey Guy was a cat that appeared on my doorstep in the early winter of 2011. I had been getting local strays spayed/neutered/vaccinated through a new program in cooperation with the Toronto Humane Society (Toronto Street Cats). If a cat was friendly enough, it was placed for adoption through a local rescue organization. I had begun making connections with other people involved in rescue. At this time there were zero options for low cost spay/neuter. I lived close to a large social housing complex, and several rooming houses. Many of my neighbours on the street had a couple of pets, who were fixed, and for the most part responsibly cared for. The cat explosions were coming from the rooming houses and City housing complex nearby. More well off neighbours seemed to believe that giving the “irresponsible” (true but also untrue for people with no options) owners lectures about pet ownership would somehow create cat birth control. I knew the only solution was humane and kind action. Eventually a free s/n program was created for this area which fixed HUNDREDS of cats. This didn’t happen for at least a year or so though. Anyhow.

I had a box type shelter on my doorstep for local strays, and neglected owned cats. If the cat seemed like it had a sort of home, I would feed it and keep an eye out for it, and “Oops !” if I accidentally got that cat fixed.

One day there was a new cat sleeping in the shelter. I could see out my bay window onto the front step where the box was. This cat was a long haired grey one I thought I had seen before, one that was avoidant and shy. I brought out a plate with some food and water and the cat bolted out of the shelter. It was a long haired cat, covered in giant matts. It stunk like a dumpster. I quickly went back inside and hoped the cat would return. It looked very pathetic, with a runny nose and eyes, too.

I was relieved when the cat came back and ate the food I put out. It settled back into the shelter. I could see that it was pretty sick. I made a point of putting out warm, liquefied canned food when it appeared. It started to stay close by and would come running when I opened the door. Cautiously, the cat let me touch it. One day I saw the cat curled up on my next door neighbour’s porch furniture, just getting snowed on as it slept. This seemed horribly sad. I was able to line up a neuter appointment. I brought the cat inside and hoped for the best. Some cats are very relieved to finally be inside again, while others panic about the confinement. I could tell this cat was shy, but liked to be touched and pet. I kept him in the bathroom, with food and water and a soft bed. He seemed happy to get brushed and get the giant matts carefully trimmed off. He got fixed, with an ear tip. The rescue group that said they could take him suddenly couldn’t for some reason so he stayed with me.

He was always only ever called Grey Guy. He blossomed into an affectionate cat, with a sweet personality who liked other cats. His only deficit was that he was extremely shy about meeting new people. He was adopted by a nice woman who loved him and called him the perfect cat. However, her cat hated him and made his life miserable. She was in tears when she called me a month later and asked me to take him back. She visited him a couple of times afterwards, and even though she lived in low income housing on disability also brought me food donations for the local strays. She still loved him.

Grey Guy had always been easy going and healthy. He had a couple of bad teeth that caused him pain, that were extracted. This spring I suspected another tooth was flaring up. I noticed he was a little slower about coming for lunch, and didn’t want to eat dry food – only canned food. Over the weekend in early May I noticed he seemed to be breathing faster. He wasn’t hiding, or showing other signs of discomfort or sickness. I thought the increased breathing might be a sign of dental pain. At the back of my mind was the fear that he had congestive heart failure. There was a family of cats from my old street that had this gene, and all had succumbed to their bad hearts by the age of 8. All these cats looked very similar, though, with big heads, short hair, short bodies and big feet. They were black and white or orange and white. I didn’t think Grey Guy was related – and he was at least 10 years old. I watched his breathing anxiously for a couple of days. I previously had a cat with congestive heart failure, who threw a clot after his heart condition was overlooked by the vet. This was a traumatic and terrible outcome. I had also cared for a neighbour’s cat who suddenly went into acute heart failure, and had to euthanize a friend’s cat with known heart issues, while I was cat sitting. I decided to go the veterinary ER clinic, as I knew they had better diagnostic imaging than my regular vet. I was sort of resigned that if this wasn’t a bad tooth, that Grey Guy probably had Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart, usually the left ventricle). This condition could be managed for awhile with medication, though it was not a “good” diagnosis. Nothing about Grey Guy appeared acute. That afternoon he spent laying in the spring sun, in the window, and seemed fine except for the mild breathing thing. A cat in congestive heart failure is typically struggling to breathe – and as they breathe their entire abdomen flares in and out with the effort. As it worsens they are open mouthed breathing and panting in distress. This was not what was going on, at all.

At the ER clinic they take a verbal history from the person, and do a visual once over of the animal. Grey Guy was very scared about being at the clinic, but he looked otherwise in good condition. I explained my experiences, and my concern, and they did an immediate triage after I signed the consent form. About 20 minutes later the vet called me into an exam room. She asked a few questions – like had he experienced any physical trauma like possibly being hit by a car (no). The X-rays were devastating. They revealed that Grey Guy had very extensive plueral effusion. This is where fluids collect in the pluera – the membrane around the lungs. This can happen after trauma, or as a result of cancer or heart disease. They could tell more by draining the fluid and analyzing it – but this was not without serious risks including infection or lung collapse, and the fluids ALWAYS come back quickly until the underlying issue is treated, IF it can be treated. This was a lot of information to process. I felt like I had been hit by a truck.

Grey Guy was in the back in an oxygen tent. They took me to a different room with an oxygen connection, and brought him to me. Initially I thought that I would attempt to treat this. Grey Guy was in my lap with the oxygen hose just sort of wrapped around me, pointed at him. He still looked exactly like Grey Guy. For a cat as compromised as he was he looked great. It slowly dawned on me what the treatment would mean for HIM : being in a cage in a busy clinic, with injured and ill animals in cages all around him. Intrusions by many unfamiliar people, including large needles being poked into his chest. More Xrays and exams.

One of the worst things that can happen to a cat with heart issues in when they “throw a clot” (aka a saddle thrombus). This is where a clot forms in a chamber in the heart, and breaks free. This typically lodges in the junction of a major vein(or artery ?) that is shaped like wishbone that goes to each of a cat’s back legs. This is excruciating, and causes paralysis, loss of circulation and often tissue death. Diagnostic imaging can sort of see the clot forming (it’s described as looking like “smoke”) but that is not super precise. I had to decide whether to do nothing (unconscionable), begin treatment that had no guarantees of a positive outcome, though it might help for as little as 24 hours – or could give him days, weeks or months (but probably not a year or years). The only other option was euthanasia. I sat with him for a long time, asking him what I should do to help him. He was stressed out enough that even though we were in the room alone together, with direct oxygen, he was panting. He’d had an okay day. He had been hiding this major trouble from me so well. Some cats are very confident and brave fighters. He wasn’t. I didn’t want Grey Guy to have to suffer through days of painful treatments that might not help much at all. If it wasn’t heart disease but cancer, it had surely aggressively metasisized already. I told the vet that I had decided to euthanize him instead. She checked in a couple of times. I could tell she was holding the needle in her hand in the pocket of her lab coat. This felt like a horrible exam where there was no right answer.

I walked home with dead Grey Guy in his carrier after midnight. Spring trees were blooming with their beautiful fragrance. I felt like a murderer.

Did he just get the bad gene ? Lots of cats that don’t live next to gas stations develop heart problems. But Grey Guy did live next door to a gas station that is chronically poisoning the air in a house next door. Chronic benzene exposure induces cardiovascular damage in humans.

Grey Guy (euthanized May 6, 2019):

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Canary After That:

Rumpy lived at a feral colony in an industrial area of Toronto. A woman and her mother had discovered this colony by accident, and felt compelled to try to help the cats there. Even though they were pretty poor, and had to take two buses to get to the area where the cats lived, they fed the cats for years. Some other cat people heard about this colony and reached out to help with things like transportation, trapping and getting the cats fixed. The caregiver said Rumpy had been at this colony for years but was in rough shape. He had some sort of accident or bad fight and disappeared for months during the winter. When he showed up in spring he was thin and looked awful. She felt he wouldn’t survive another winter there.

Rumpy first stayed with a very experienced cat rescue woman, while he recovered from being neutered. Several weeks later, she still hadn’t made any progress with him. He was hissy and stayed stuffed behind the toilet when she tried to visit with him. He was transferred to a different foster home and given a nice bedroom. This woman was pretty elderly, and also couldn’t seem to make any progress with him, as he just hid when she came in the room. She was going to have out of town guests who needed the room, and she wasn’t confident he wouldn’t make a break for it if the door was accidentally left open. I said that I could foster him while she had company.

It took another very experienced cat rescue woman and I almost an hour to get him into a carrier. He ran away from us and stuffed himself into impossible locations in the small 10 x 10′ room. At one point both of us were laying on the floor under the bed, on different sides, reaching out to him, both unable to grab or direct him. I could brush him with my finger tips. While we were talking to him in a soft voice, trying to make a plan, I was able to stroke his neck with my fingers and it felt like he leaned into this, just a little ! Finally we got him, amid disbelief at his wiley ways.

I had a small room I used for foster cats. They had a window they could look out of, a small bench they could sort of hide under, a bed, a dishes and litter. There was no escape, except out the door, and no heavy or large furniture that was inaccessible.

The caregiver had described Rumpy as “friendly” but so far none of the fosters had seen this. When I went in the room with his lunch, he hissed at me. When I went in to observe him and talk to him he hissed at me. He was eating lunch and using the catbox, but ignoring catnip. It was summer so I had the victorian sash window open about 2″ for some fresh air. Rumpy sat on the window ledge, with one front leg and one back leg stuffed under the window, as though he could escape this way. I thought that there was no way that this cat was not feral.

Despite this, I kept visiting him, and he kept himself on the windowsill, with a large plant between us. At some point I reached out to him, and hesitantly touched him. He hissed at me, but didn’t move away. I started petting him. More hissing but he stayed in one place. I kept petting him and his bum went up in the air – like cats do when they like a certain kind of touch. I said “Rumpy !” (Previously he had been called Greydon that didn’t fit at all). I just kept petting him, he kept tolerating this. Periodically he would hiss at me. At some point I could feel him silently purring. This went on for a couple of weeks. It seemed pointless to transfer him again since I was getting somewhere. Gradually he let his guard down. At some point he decided that I was okay then that was it. He was not a feral cat anymore !

With Rumpy, it was like a light switch that was either off or ON. He was feral then NOT feral. I was an enemy then he FULL ON loved me. We got to know each other a little more every day. Rumpy had to unlearn some industrial parking lot ways – like he got really scared when a light switch or a tv set got turned on in a dark room as in his brain this meant “Truck !” Rumpy decided he liked to be in my lap but growled when I typed at a keyboard. He decided that if he was on a table and I was close by that he would stand up and hug me. Unlike most cats, Rumpy flapped his tail when he felt emotional – especially positive emotions – which was most of the time. If another cat was already in my lap Rumpy would jump up and just sit on top of that cat ! He was really bossy for such a small guy. And he LOVED catnip – he had just been acting like he didn’t to trick me.

When he was on my lap his fur would part to reveal old scars. He had damage to one of his eye’s inner lids, and most of the teeth were missing from that side of his face, like from a major impact. Rumpy had survived some rough stuff.

Rumpy fit in well with other cats. Much to my surprise, he became a cat who was very confident meeting new people and even liked little kids. For the first year with me he wouldn’t even look out the window and showed zero interest in going into my small backyard. He definitely did not want to give the impression that he ever wanted to be “out there” again. After a year or so with me he relaxed about this, then definitely enjoyed some yard time.

Rumpy was always a super healthy guy, despite his hard and unknown past. He had some bad teeth out in 2018 but that was it. His bloodwork then was excellent. His actual age was unknown. He was an adult when he entered my household in 2011. I am guessing he was at least 5 years old but he might have been older or younger. He had some prolonged snuffles that cleared up with antibiotics this winter.

When I moved to this house, he seemed extra excited about the factory parking lot next door. It was like “Home !” in that part of his brain. He was also excited to come inside and eat lunch, too. I was very cautious about traffic and other dangers, so I didn’t like to let the cats roam freely if I wasn’t around, and I always rounded them up to come inside.

In the middle of this August, I noticed that it was taking Rumpy longer to finish his supper, which was new. This went on for a few days, so I took him to the vet. He had also been doing some reverse sneezing – the same as when he had the cold this winter. I assumed he might have a recurring upper respiratory thing going on. I decided to get some bloodwork done, just to be on the safe side. He was his usual bossy self at the clinic and seemed great for a cat his age. We were sent home with some antibiotics for the suspected URI. The vet that I saw wasn’t working on Saturday so a different vet called with his bloodwork results. This was SHOCKING. Rumpy was in end stage renal failure ! His creatinine was 633 (normal reference range 80m-221 mol/L), his urea(BUN) was 60.6 (5.7 – 13.2 mmol/L), his phosphorus was 4.8 ( 0.9 – 2.0 mmol/L), and a bunch of other results were either crazy sky high or dangerously low. This was all extra strange in contrast to the physical condition of Rumpy. He was about 93% normal. His blood tests put him past stage 4 of IRIS staging.

Click to access 3_staging-of-ckd.pdf

I had three geriatric cats with kidney failure between 2005 – 2008. Kidney failure (or “renal insufficiency”) is common in geriatric cats. Typically they start to show symptoms in stages – like drinking a lot, losing weight, new barfiness or inappropriate peeing. As their numbers creep up they might become wobbly, or weak, dehydrated, and have a lot of other symptoms. With Rumpy’s awful bloodwork, he should have been barely able to stand, very stinky from the accumulated toxins and dehydration, twitchy and almost comatose. But the only symptom he was showing was slight inappetance ?! Since he had been at the vet on Thursday, he had taken several doses of the antibiotic and seemed to be now feeling about 97%. This made NO SENSE. I rushed to the vet on Saturday before they closed to purchase supplies for subcutaneous fluids, prescription kidney diet and probably some other things I don’t remember in my panic. The mantra I remembered from the cats with kidney failure online groups was “treat the cat not the numbers”. I was very confused. I posted to these groups with Rumpy’s information, and the replies I got were almost skeptical, as this as a picture made NO SENSE. I didn’t know if Rumpy was just going to die, like immediately or what to expect. He had Xrays to check for kidney stones, ureter blockages or visible tumours but there was nothing unusual.

I did some reading about Acute Kidney Injury – like when a cat has ingested poison or a toxin which causes kidney damage. While Rumpy’s bloodwork certainly suggested this was what was going on – Rumpy seemed pretty okay. It was all super weird. I did hours of research on Bromadiolone – the horrible anticoagulant that is used in rodent bait stations – the one the gas station has but three feet from the property line. Had Rumpy eaten a rodent and was now being poisoned from this ? Rumpy doesn’t have any teeth left, and was never a big rodent hunter or eater. He also wasn’t a cat that would eat anything for kicks. IF it was AKI – why wasn’t he extremely sick ?

http://felinecrf.org/acute_kidney_injury.htm

I admitted him first thing on Monday for a day of IV fluids. The staff was surprised by his good condition, his now great appetite. The vet who saw him was also shocked by his bloodwork vs Rumpy in the flesh. She made a bunch of calls to specialists, pursued information about different conditions that “might” be causing this. Nothing made sense. It seemed that there was some sort of infection that was responding to antibiotics – but what ? He was switched to a different antibiotic that was effective against things like hemobartonella and leptospirosis. Even those diagnosis were not a comfortable fit. It was all very, very odd. Was he just some kind of super tough cat ? I guess so.

I started all the things you do with a cat in kidney failure – sub Q fluids, diet, phosphorus binders, B12 supplementation. I had no idea if Rumpy was just going to fall over dead or what was going to happen.

He did a month’s course of antibiotics. His bloodwork was checked a couple of weeks after the first crisis/non-crisis – and his body was responding to treatment. His numbers were still terrible – but they were steadily dropping towards normal. What was going on ?

After he completed his antibiotics he seemed fine, then as every day went by he seemed less fine. Cats with kidney failure often have deep seated urinary tract or kidney infections. A urinalysis was run which showed no signs of infection. It seemed like some kind of infection was making him sick and affecting his kidneys – but what ? He was started on a broad spectrum antibiotic that is used to treat kidney infections – in case he truly had a “silent” infection. He bounced back within a couple of doses and seemed fine again. What on earth was going on ?

During this time I tried to give Rumpy everything he wanted. He got lots of time in a sunny spot in the yard, he got to be jungle Rumpy sleeping in some tall weeds, he got to go in the front yard after midnight, and got carried around to see whatever sights he was interested in. He was 97% the Rumpy I had always known. I had no clue what to expect.

On Sunday Rumpy had a good day. That evening he seemed suspicious of his meal (which did have medication type things added to it, like all meals since this began) and wanted to eat another cat’s food. He barfed up his supper a couple of hours later and from that point seemed very unwell. I hoped it was maybe a GI bug. He wouldn’t eat that night or the next day. He still wanted to be held and was affectionate. Then he started hiding so deeply I had to look for him with a flashlight. He seemed wary and disoriented. This was really unusual.

Because he wasn’t in crisis, and everything about his situation was so complicated and weird, I didn’t think there was any point in taking him to the ER vet. The best they could offer was IV and some bloodwork, while I tried to describe all the things that didn’t make sense. If he had cancer of some kind – it wouldn’t respond to antibiotics. If he had an infection – where was it ?

I hardly slept and called the clinic the next a.m. Through tears I said that I hoped for the best but expected the worst. I said that I wanted some bloodwork done, and then we would go from there as to a plan of action.

Rumpy seemed like he felt obviously horrible – which I had never seen before. Despite this he made a fuss in the cab to the clinic, and made a fuss when his blood was taken.

His bloodwork was devastating. His creatine level was now 1200, and he was dangerously anemic. There were no realistic treatment options for him – since he had already been on the antibiotic of last resort (Marbofloaxin) for over a month. Aggressive IV might lower his creatinine levels to what – 1000 ? For a couple of days spent in a cage at a clinic ? I didn’t know what was killing him. I felt that euthanasia was the only kind choice as there was really no hope left.

I held him like I always did and he flapped his tail. They injected the sedative and he slumped a little, then the next shot was done. When his tail stopped flapping I knew he was gone.

What happened to Rumpy ? What made him so sick in such a very strange way ? Was he poisoned ? If so what poisoned him and how ? What infection devastated his body ? What infection can devastate an otherwise healthy cat’s body this way ?

Rumpy (euthanized Oct. 22, 2019):

Rumpyspring19.jpeg

The first three canaries: https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/26/canaries/

Heritage Designation Notes

This what the notification from the City said (address redacted):

“Last Date for Objection: January 6, 2020

“The house was constructed in 1897 and was first occupied by the Warren family.

” The property…is of significant cultural heritage value or interest because of its physical/design values, its historical/associative values. and its contextual values.

“The property …is a representative example of the Queen Anne Revival architectural style, with expression of influences of the East Lake School, in East London. The Queen Anne Revival is demonstrated in the form, massing and detailing of the home. While the Queen Anne Revival architectural style is common in Lindon, the execution of the detailing of the building, particularly its demonstrated expression of influence from the East Lake School, distinguishes the property…from other examples of the Queen Anne Revival architectural style. The property…demonstrates a high degree of authenticity as a representative example of a Queen Anne home in London as its heritage attributes areaccurately displayed. The property…has a high degree of integrity, as the property’s heritage attributes have been preserved and continue to support the cultural heritage value of the property.

“A concentration of decorative elements applied to the home…demonstrates the high degree of craftsmanship and artistic merit, particularly as it executes the Queen Anne Revival architectural style. In particular, the applied wooden details of the gable, the fretwork of the porch and the stained glass windows(particularly the front window) demonstrate a high degree of craftmanship and artistic merits with excellent integrity. The property…also demonstrates a higher degree of applied detail than found on other nearby properties of the same vintage.

” The property has the potential to yield information related to an understanding of the history and evolution of East London and the Hamiton Road area as it relates to Victorian period development that characterizes the area’s development.

“The property is historically linked to the nearby properties at 23 and 35 …Street, as the buildings located on these properties were constructed for children of Charles Warren who lived at .. ……. Street prior to their construction.”

“Heritage Attributes

Heritage attributes which support and contribute to the cultural heritage value or interest of this property include:

– Form, scale and massing of the one and half story L-plan residential building

– The setback of this building from……..Street

–  Steeply pitched cross-gable roof

–  Buff brick veneer exterior cladding, with voussoirs above the window and door openings in the facades

– Entry doorway set in an umbrage with the gable roof projecting above, supported by a decorated fluted wood post set on a base of buff brick masonry with brackets and fretwork in an off-set rectangular pattern

– East Lake Style painted wood entrance door with glass lights framed in scroll with trim and dentil below, a brass ringer/door bell and mail slot, and nine recessed panels below with nail head detail, and transom with water glass texture

– Wood windows and storm windows, including:

– Large plate glass window on the front of the building, set in segmental arched opening with pierced line and dot detail, with a curved, oblong transom, carved floral motif in the spandrel of the transom, and stained glass with colored and textured glasses in a scroll motif with floral accents, a painted stone sill

– Queen Anne style windows in the front gable, with plain lower sashes and colored glass in small squares surrounding plain centre lights in the upper sash

– Wood sash windows and storm windows

– Decorated front (west) and (north) side gables including wood details:

– Bargeboard with naturalistic foliated scroll motif at terminal points

– Raised panels with accented squares with daisy/floral or sunburst patera

– Pierced or perforated details in the corbels/consoles

– Bracket course below the window openings with East Lake style brackets below the two windows, as well as above and between the windows to flank the window frame or stile

– An enlarged or exaggerated bracket course above the window openings

– Alternating courses of square or scalloped wood shingle imbrication

– Ribbed or reeded parallel convex projected mouldings (with the appearance of timber) in the apex of the gable

  • Wood tongue and groove soffits
  • Buff brick chimney in the rear
  • The following interior heritage attributes: The glass vestibule door with Queen Anne style stained glass with textured glass centre panel

The first occupant of the house (1898) was Charles Frederick Warren (b 1832, Devon, England, died 1920, London, ON). The house was owned by his son, Charles F. Warren ( b.1865 – died 1953, also identified as Charles S. Warren), who seems to have been a builder with a business on Talbot St. in London. His father first occupied the house with several adult siblings – Edward, Ethel, Melville and Phillip. By 1900 another sibling – Florence – had moved in. The children ranged in age from 17 – 27. The adult siblings had jobs like boilermaker, car builder, brass finisher, and sewing machine operator. The youngest – Florence – is identified as a dressmaker, but there is no information whether she worked from this address or was employed by a factory or local business.

IF the house always had a full bathroom with running water, in the present location on the 2nd floor, this left two modest bedrooms on the second floor. There is a small room on the first floor, off the dining room. Where did everyone else sleep ? Only one bedroom – the bedroom that faces west, is big enough to permit two single or antique 3/4 sized beds in the room. By 1909 the household had thinned out to father Charles, with sons Edward and Melville still living at this address.

The Warren family owned several houses on this street that were built in the early 20th century. They lived right next door – at a residential address that is long gone, absorbed by the commercial bakery,  across the street, and down the street. They also owned a very nice house on Anderson Street, one street over, and one or two very close by on Hamilton Road.

Records show that Charles Sr. had lived in several houses nearby – two on Rectory Street – before moving to this house to be the first occupant. It is unclear whether he owned those houses, or if they belonged to his son or another family member.

The last of the Warrens lived at this address in 1923. After this came a rotating door of rental occupants – grocers, bakers, carpenters, porters, CNR workers, and even a musician. In 1963 Kenneth Kelly, a jeweller, moved in with his family. They later bought the house and lived here until 2005. By all local accounts, the previous owner to me never lived at this address. It was said that he intended to flip the house – but probably discovered that this was not like on t.v.. – with a seemingly insurmountable number of repairs and improvements needed. It is said the house had been rented to a family for a little while, with some disturbing goings on with the police being called numerous times. The garden was full of strange buried things – many plastic toys from the early 2000’s, more than an average amount of cutlery, and very large shards of broken window glass. The window glass was in several spots in the back yard – each discovery was by accident and utterly terrifying.

After this the house was vacant, though the owner’s adult son may have lived here for a little while in the year before it was sold. It seems miraculous that during the years it was obviously vacant, that it had never been squatted or seriously vandalized.

This a video about the history of the Hamilton Road area that offers some insight about the development and industry of this area. My house isn’t in it – but there’s lots of historical photos of nearby locations:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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:

junenight1.jpg

junenight2.jpg

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:

lightsweep.jpg

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

brightbedr.jpg

Viewed from the hall:

fromthehall.jpg

With the windows at my back facing the hall:

faceaway.jpg

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.

farside.jpg

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

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/light-pollution-east-carlaw-memnon-1.4888524

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 ?

https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/environment/exposure-to-led-lights-could-be-harmful-scientists-suggest-a-simple-solution-58544

https://inews.co.uk/news/environment/bright-led-lights-can-affect-wildlife-as-much-as-midday-sun-scientists-warn-282156

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.

Thanks,

Andrea”

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…

 

 

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:

Screen Shot 2019-09-15 at 9.44.25 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-09-15 at 9.44.44 PM.png

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:

feb19badfence.jpg

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

badfencegood.jpg

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.