I Contacted the Ontario Fire Marshal

Next I wrote to the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office. I have been told (though I can find no citation for this) that the location of the vent pipes need to be a certain distance away from a flammable structure, like a fence.

My email, sent Feb.27, 2019:

” I live next to a gas station that was recently renovated, with new underground gasoline storage tanks. The vents were moved from a previously troublefree location, far from my house. The vents are now 4′ from my property line, then another 24′ from my house. They are adjacent to my front door and most of the windows on my house. When there is a tanker refuelling, gas fumes are sometimes released. My yard is often filled with gasoline vapours. Depending on the wind direction my house is often infiltrated by gasoline vapours – despite all my windows and doors being closed. This is toxic and volatile. My property is on a lower elevation (approx 40″) so the vapours sink. There is nothing I can do to rid the house of gasoline vapours when there is an infiltration as opening the windows and doors would only let more vapours inside. I have made numerous reports to the TSSA and the Ministry of the Environment regarding this. The TSSA has sent an inspector who witnessed a refuelling, who had to admit there was a problem. I believe this situation is potentially extremely dangerous. Can the OFM help me or is there another enitity I should contact ? I am in London, ON.”

Their reply (March 12, 2019):

“Hello Ms. Johnson,

On behalf of the Office of the Fire Marshall and Emergency Management, I’d be pleased to respond to your question about gas stations. A shortcut to the Ontario Fire Code and a transcript of your question can be found beneath my signature. I have also included links to the various links of legislation cited in this message.

The Technical Standards and safety Authority (TSSA) regulates gas stations under Ontario Regulation 217/01, a regulation under the Technical Standards and Safety Act. 2000. The regulation adopts the Liquid Fuels Handling Code, 2017 (LFHC), which specifies the requirements for the storage, handling and dispensing of gasoline and associated products that are used as fuel in motor vehicles or motorized watercraft. All gas stations are required to comply with the LFHC. However, they are not necessarily required to comply with the Ontario Fire Code, and part 4 of division B of the Ontario Fire code specifically deals with flammable and combustable liquids. However, Part 4 does NOT apply to the storage, handling, transportation and use of flammable liquids to which the TSSA Act, 2000 apply. This is referenced under the Ontario Fire Code, clause 4.1.1.2.(2)(a). This provision outlines that TSSA is the authority having jurisdiction as it relates to gas stations. If offensive odours continue to persist, I would suggest that you re-engage with TSSA to express your concerns and/or discuss this matter with a member of your municipal government.

I have provided the coordinates for you to connect with customer service represntatives from TSSA.

regards,

Jay Current P.Eng

Fire Protection Engineer

Office of the Fire marshal & Emergency Management”

He attached a bunch of links, including one for the Liquid Fuel Handling Guide, which only took me to a portion of the site where I could buy my own copy ($ 135.00, remember ?) but not actually access the code.

Again – authority is deferred to the TSSA, who does not actually have any code pertaining to the distance these vents should be from a residence. The TSSA  who does not take any samples to prove the vents are functioning properly or safely, the same TSSA who gave authority for the guy who approved the vent location to INSPECT his own work when an issue is reported. The same TSSA dude who told me I would be charged an hourly rate if he has to come back to my address again.

Shameful.

I Contacted My City Councillor

crueljoke.jpg

The people in the neighborhood outreach at the library told me he was great, and was really receptive and responsive to people in the community. I even voted for this dude as he was the only candidate that even canvased this street.

He got an earful about my fence and gas station dissatisfaction during his canvasing, but never responded to my follow up, via email. I figured he was busy with the election and whatnot.

I tried again on Feb.26. At this point I had THREE gasoline infiltrations that month, and one cat in acute liver failure, which happened within 48 hrs of the 2nd gas infiltration.

I wrote a somewhat long but very specific email regarding this with my address, email and phone number. Did my city counciillor respond to my email ?

This is the reply I received, over one month later on March 29, 2019:

“Good afternoon Andrea,

Councillor Van Holst has followed up with staff in the Building and Bylaw Enforcement divisions and have learned that they do not have jurisdiction over the issues you are experiencing.

As you mentioned dealing with the Ministry of the Environment and TSSA, we would recommend reaching out to your member of Provincial Parliament, Teresa Armstrong, as the provincial government has jurisdiction. Teresa’s contact information is as follows:

Tarmstrong-co@ndp.on.ca

519.668.1104

Warm regards,

on behalf of Councillor Michael Van Holst,

Amanada Swartman

Administrative Assistant

Elected Officials, Councillors’ Office

City of London ”

Did my elected representative make a time to come to my address to have a look around, to see what I was talking about ? No. Did he have a phone conversation with me about this ? No.

Did he even personally answer my email ? No.

Way to go, Michael Van Holst. While it is true that the vent location is not (legally) a matter for the city of London, it SHOULD BE. If he had bothered to speak to me, I could have told him that basically the vent location is hands off for everyone, except the TSSA, who does not even have any code about vent locations and residential property. My gas station troubles are happening in his ward, and are a result of outdated and lax municipal code and city planning, and the incompetent stranglehold that the TSSA has regarding fuel handling.

Update: Michael Van Holst took a leave of absence to run for the right wing Progressive Conservative party. He was not elected, and has returned to his job as city councillor. The CBC did a piece on some of his climate change opinions:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/london/london-ontario-climate-crisis-denial-fact-check-michael-van-holst-1.5372239

If I could take back my vote which helped elect him to city council I would.

 

Getting Nowhere with the TSSA and MOE

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

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

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

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

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

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

ventpipescode.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Air Quality Testing

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

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

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

Garbage Exasperation

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

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

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

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

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

Why aren’t they recycling the cardboard ?

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

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marchgarb2.jpg

 

 

 

Speaking With Property Appraisers

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

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

I contacted those ones, and others I found online.

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

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

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

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

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

Talking to Realtors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gas Infiltration Questions

The infiltration of gasoline vapours into my house is happening even when I have all the doors and windows closed.

How is the gas vapour getting INTO my house ?

There are storm windows on most of the windows – mostly vintage aluminum triple track ones with screens, but I have a couple of antique wood ones, too.

The doors on the house are the original wood doors, with the exception of the door on the back porch, with the vintage aluminum storm door. Oh, and the wood storm door on the kitchen is a replacement, that has a tempered glass insert.

I have door sweeps on all the exterior doors, except the back porch. I also have a door sweep on the door that leads to the back porch from the kitchen, and both foyer doors. Both foyer doors are original to the house and fit properly in their jambs.

I have weather stripping on the kitchen door and the front door.

The vintage aluminum storm windows are attached with screws and a horrid amount of caulk. This led to irreparable damage on several window sills as there wasn’t any place for condensation to go but down. The rotten window sills have been replaced.

I had a blower test done before I had the new furnace installed, then again after so I could qualify for the rebate. It showed a few places where there was some air leakage around a few windows, even the ones with glued on storm windows. I replaced the broken basement window, sealed up the terrible powder room fan vent hole and caulked along the baseboards on exterior walls.

There are no obvious gaping holes on my house. There’s a little missing mortar here and there, minor.

The front door is slightly smaller than the jamb. Any door has to be or it will not open or close properly. London is very humid so a wood door in a wood jamb that fits tightly in the winter might not close at all in summer. A door is usually about 1/4″ (7mm) narrower in with than the opening, and about 1/2″ shorter..

https://www.bhg.com/home-improvement/door/door-repair/how-to-fit-a-new-door-into-an-old-opening/

The sash windows have to be slightly smaller so they can open and close as well. There is no significant rot on any of the wood sash window frames, and they are all still seated properly. A couple of panes have small cracks but the glass is not loose or missing. I have replaced most of the damaged glazing putty on the ground floor windows. I have curtains or blinds on most of my windows which help with privacy and retaining heat.

Houses that are sealed too tightly have indoor air quality problems.

Depending on the wind speed and direction a room might be cozy or drafty.

Gasoline vapours are entering my house because they are vapours. They are forced in and through minute openings around the doors and windows by the wind direction. This is not an error or deficit in my house’s construction.

Gasoline vapours are entering my house because of the vents made for vapour release, from the underground storage tank, which are in a dangerous and inappropriate location.

I could remove all my original windows and doors and replace them with inferior modern garbage doors and windows. Maybe even frames and jambs, too. I would still suffer from the infiltration of gasoline vapours because the vent is situated too close to any doors and windows, in violation of TSSA’s own guidelines.

Perhaps if my house was a windowless extra thick-walled industrial building, situated as far back as possible on the lot, with the front door situated on the south wall, also near the back of the lot, then the gasoline vapours would not enter the building ?

 

Effects of Gasoline Inhalation on Humans

Oh sure, car companies are making their product greener than ever before. Yeah, gas companies are making their product burn more “cleanly” whatever that means.

Here’s some light reading:

https://journals.lww.com/epidem/Fulltext/2004/07000/Chronic_Low_Level_Exposure_to_Gasoline_Vapors_and.510.aspx

(Underground gas tank storage leak exposes many residents to low level benzene in the gasoline for years. Elevated leukemia rates ensue.)

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/8306786/Living-with-100-yards-of-petrol-stations-damages-your-health-study-claims.html

(2011 Spanish study recommends that residences should be a minimum 50 yards away from the closest gas station, after measuring pollutants particularly benzene. 100 yards distance is recommended for schools, health care facilities, etc.)

https://phys.org/news/2018-10-gas-stations-vent-toxic-fumes.html

(Columbia University study discovers that the airborne losses from gas fumes via vents are TEN TIMES as much as originally believed. More benzene is released from venting than previously thought. You know, that carcinogen.”The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s Minimal Risk Level (MRL) for benzene exposure over a period between two weeks and a year was exceeded within 7 or 8 meters of the two gas stations.”)

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-10-small-gas-stations-significant-health.html

(Small spills at gas stations while refuelling create a cumulative risk, including benzene contamination of soil and groundwater.)

Click to access tp72.pdf

(1995 EPA report on the Toxicological Profile for Gasoline. Many documented effects via various routes including inhalation, skin exposure, oral exposure. Negative outcomes include DEATH, neurological problems, heart problems, cancer, reproductive problems, breathing problems, chemical burns and so on.)

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323426.php

(Lightweight article outlines health effects of gasoline exposure, including gas huffing)

https://www.nap.edu/read/4795/chapter/28

(University level textbook chapter about gasoline toxicity)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1520019/?page=1

(1994 “Neurotoxic Effects of Gasoline and Gasoline Constituents”. “Occupational exposure to gasoline has been associated with numerous signs of neurotoxicity. Significant effects on intellectual capacity, psychomotor and vasomotor function, immediate and delayed memory, and an increased proportionate mortality rate(PMR) due to mental and psychoneurotic conditions have been reported for gasoline service workers…”)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222489/

(2011 Study of the Adverse Health effects from living in proximity to industry, including of course gas stations. Adverse Pregnancy outcomes, childhood cancers, cardiovascular, respiratory illnesses and other diseases are increased with variable results from the proximity. Hint: this proximity in no way increases positive health outcomes.)

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/leukemia-rates-high-for-kids-living-near-gas-stations/article20434890/

(2018 Globe and Mail story about a study that found that children ages 2 -6 who lived close to gas stations were four times more likely to develop leukemia and eight times more likely to develop acute non-lymphocytic leukemia)

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3271273/

(2012 paper about benzene induced leukemia in humans and risk assessment. “Benzene is associated with multiple adverse health effects. It was shown to induce hemotoxicity in humans over 100 years ago…” “Benzene metabolism is inherently complex and occurs principally in the liver and also in the lung with secondary metabolism occuring in the bone marrow.” )

If you are tired of reading you can watch this:

 

There is substantial research on the negative effects of gasoline and gasoline additives. This is not news, and is much worse than previously considered.

Yet there are no guidelines from the CSA or the TSSA on the distance underground gasoline storage tank vents should be from a residential property. In Canada. In 2019.