Hey TSSA, that’s not okay ! (Part 3)

Who is the TSSA, exactly, and what are they supposed to do, anyway ?

Wikipedia has a very short entry about this entity:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technical_Standards_and_Safety_Authority

” The Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) administers and enforces technical standards in the province of Ontario, Canada.

“It is a non-profit organization that has been given powers to enforce and create public safety rules in such areas as elevators, ski lifts, amusement rides, boilers, pressure vessels and operating engineers in order to protect lives and the environment.”

This doesn’t mention the fuel handling angle, but the TSSA is the sole authority for matters of regulations surrounding fuel handling – which has removed a province or municipalities from having any jurisdiction like bylaws regarding things like, say, vent locations for underground gasoline storage tanks. Despite being a non-profit organization that is concerned with matters of public safety, the information and codes are only available for a substantial price (ie $ 135.00 plus HST for the Liquid Fuel Handling Code), and this information is NOT available through a public library or online. In my experience the TSSA has been incredibly unhelpful to the point of being obstructive – between refusing to answer my questions – to sending me a form to request any information ( $ 120.00 plus a 120 day waiting period for answers, plus an hourly rate for any extra research required.). As a homeowner living next to a gas station, I am not even able to access information about what the legal distance those underground storage tanks are required to be from the property line. I asked the TSSA this question in an email in July 2018, and no one has ever answered.

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

The TSSA has the authority to approve things like the relocation of the underground gasoline tanks and storage vents, which are then done by a petroleum contractor. In my particular situation, when I complained about the gasoline vapours entering my home due to the new vent location, they sent the same inspector who had approved the vent relocation to inspect his own work !

Since then, he is the only TSSA inspector I have dealt with. I have not been recording our conversations, but from my perspective I perceive there has been a lot of “gaslighting” going on. I have been told contradictory and frankly untrue things. I have been given explanations that plainly make no sense. I have been told that my interpretation of the code surrounding the vent location was incorrect, though when he actually reread the code had to admit that my understanding of it WAS the correct one. It is my word against his, as I do not have recordings of these interactions. I have been told that if he returns to continue to inspect – that I will be charged an hourly rate for this. The TSSA has not taken a single air quality sample, and does not have any documentation that the vent pipes are in a safe location, and that gasoline vapours are NOT entering my property. There is no test equipment that documents the volume of gasoline vapours released from the vent pipes. The TSSA has never provided me with any written documentation of their findings, with regards to my complaints.

I am not the only one who has had troubles with the TSSA.

Here’s a press release from the Ontario Federation of Labour, from 2013, about their concerns about the TSSA, as it pertains to the Sunrise Propane Disaster in Toronto (2009):

RELEASE – Conviction in Sunrise case confirms failure of privatized TSSA

More information about the Sunrise Propane Disaster:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/anger-sunrise-propane-blast-1.4779912

Did you know that the TSSA only started tracking residential inspections in January 2018 ?

https://www.cbc.ca/news/toronto-tssa-inspection-ontario-ministry-consumer-safety-sunrise-1.4611619

The auditor general says that the TSSA is not doing its job properly (Dec.2018):

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/tssa-auditor-general-report-1.4933359

Here’s what the people who work (or worked, past tense) at the TSSA have to say about working there:

https://www.glassdoor.ca/Reviews/TSSA-Reviews-E714721.htm

https://ca.indeed.com/cmp/Technical-Standards-&-Safety-Authority-(tssa)/reviews

Here’s what people in various industries have to say about their dealings with the TSSA:

https://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/tssa-toronto-ontario-c295285.html

Here’s what some people in the HVAC trade have to say about their dealings with the TSSA:

https://www.hvactechgroup.com/hvacforum/index.php?topic=616.0

This is beyond unacceptable. The TSSA needs to have its authority removed, and replaced by a competent, FULLY ACCOUNTABLE and transparent organization, that actually, ya know, works toward safety for businesses and residents.

As it is now is shameful.

 

 

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.

 

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 ?

 

Yet Another Gas Infiltration

As of today (Feb.26, 2019) I had my third gas infiltration in one month.

I noticed it as I always do, by smell, upstairs. I followed my nose and the fumes were all over the house. 3:10 p.m..

I ran to Brutus, worried that this infiltration might make him a goner.

I made another report to the Ministry of the Environment, as I will keep doing.

How many drops of poison does it take to taint the well ?

How do gasoline vapours behave ?

Painting: Ed Ruscha, 1965

https://www.cob.org/services/safety/education/pages/gasoline.aspx

“In spite of the routine use of gasoline, many people are unaware or unappreciative of the dangers of gasoline. Gasoline is dangerous because it is highly volatile. The fumes are capable of ignition up to 12 feet away from a pooled source. It can float on water and may spread long distances, making ignition and flash back possible. Gasoline may ignite from a nearby spark, flame or even static electricity and become a ‘fireball’ with a temperature of 15,000 degrees F…

…Gasoline produces ignitable vapours that are 3 to 4 times heavier than air and can travel for great distances along the ground. Gas vapours tend to accumulate in low or enclosed spaces. ”

GASOLINE PRODUCES IGNITABLE VAPOURS THAT ARE 3 TO 4 TIMES HEAVIER THAN AIR AND CAN TRAVEL FOR GREAT DISTANCES ALONG THE GROUND.

GAS VAPOURS TEND TO ACCUMULATE IN LOW OR ENCLOSED SPACES.

Hey TSSA ! That’s Not Okay ! (Oct./2018)

I reported another gas infiltration in early October, 2018. A few days later an inspector from the TSSA was at my door(Oct.15, 2018).

I was pretty mad talking to this guy. It turned out that he was the inspector who had originally APPROVED the vent location. How on earth could he have the right to inspect his own work ? Wasn’t that a serious conflict of interest ?

This Winnipeg building inspector got in trouble for doing just that:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/winnipeg-housing-inspector-may-have-inspected-his-own-work-1.1359638

I tried to emphasize that the vents were not in an appropriate location, and that anyone with normal vision could see that my front door and most of my windows were in proximity to this vent. This would have been obvious – and therefore they should not have been located there.

About a week later (Oct. 22, 2018)I heard a large truck next door. When I looked over it was another tanker, getting ready to refuel. BUT – the TSSA guy was there as well. I grabbed my camera, and stood in the window, of the north bedroom, seething. I felt very angry that I was having to fight this fight. Eventually the manager showed up, and the TSSA inspector was at my door again. He explained that he was there to witness a refuelling. I asked him if he brought any equipment to take air quality samples, or an infrared camera to document the fumes.

He looked surprised by my questions. He told me that he would be using his sense of SMELL. Great. How could this be quantified ? Was my sense of smell better than his sense of smell ? How could this be used in a legal or scientific context ? We could argue over our memories of the strength of the smell, with $ 500.00/hr lawyers sitting around ? I thought this was completely ridiculous and unprofessional.

The tanker began the refuelling process. The inspector watched as the hoses were attached, and the manager stood around with his cellphone. Soon there was an obvious gas odour, and gas fumes were VISIBLE coming from the top of the vent pipe. The manager was recording this on his camera phone. The inspector walked around, and in my front yard, by the driveway next to the front door, the smell of gasoline was very strong. He had to admit that there was a problem. This was happening with the vapour control procedure being used appropriately by the tanker driver.

It was a grey and chilly day. I went inside, and the fumes were not terrible inside. I walked in all the rooms to check. I could smell the gas in the front foyer, but that was as far as they penetrated, that day. I went back outside.

I felt pretty angry that this was happening. With that vent location, how could it NOT happen ?

There was some verbal back and forth with the TSSA dude. He claimed that the vent pipes were actually located further away than code specified. I went inside and grabbed my print out. The code specified a distance of 6 m. However this only applies to railyards and bulk loading facilities, of which I was neither. There was absolutely NOTHING in their code about the vents in relation to residential property. I read out the sections that specified that the fumes were not to enter an opening in an adjacent building, like a door or window, and that the fumes should NOT affect people ! But they were affecting people. I am affected, and all my friends and family are affected by having to listen to my dull grievances regarding this matter. Will my house go up in flames ? Will my pets get cancer ? Will I get cancer ? What if I did want to sell and move ?

I asked the TSSA dude if he would purchase a property that was regularly infiltrated by gasoline vapours ? I asked him if he would feel safe with his family living there ? He did not answer. I asked him what he thought this might do to the value of my property, as this would need to be disclosed to a prospective buyer, or I could be sued for not disclosing an obvious deficit.

I asked him what actions would be taken by the TSSA regarding this matter ? He didn’t really say. He said he thought that maybe the vent pipes could be made taller ? I said that wouldn’t help as it was their location in relation to my doors and windows that was the problem. I said that since I was on a lower elevation that the fumes WOULD sink, that was just gravity and science.

I said that I felt the vent location was an issue related to the entities who had renovated the property. This vent location never should have been approved. I also said that as far as I knew the present gas station owners had purchased this as a turnkey business. It was my opinion that the TSSA and the developer and possibly the petroleum contractor that did the renovation were all responsible, and should pay the costs to move these vents to a safer location.

I told the inspector that the TSSA should deal with me in WRITING regarding this matter.

Then, of course, nothing happened.

 

Boring But Important: Gas Station Vapour Recovery System, Explained

Gas stations typically have underground storage tanks for gasoline and diesel fuels. The newer tanks are designed to be resistant to corrosion, with a system to detect leaks anywhere on the line. Some tanks are fibreglass, some have double walls with the outer layer surrounded by brine, and steel tanks are used in locations where there is a large volume of heavy machinery on the ground above. Some stations have tanks with compartments for different grades of products.

I have no idea what kind of tanks are next door, nor whether they are a safe distance from my property. I do know they are close.

Underground tanks get filled by a tanker truck. They connect a hose from the truck to a sort of coupler attachment, which connects to the tank below. They also connect (or are SUPPOSED to) connect a second hose, using a second coupler device, which goes from the underground storage tank back to the truck. This is supposed to create a closed system, where the fuel vapours go back into the tanker truck, and are later processed to be reclaimed and turned into liquid fuel.

When there is a discrepancy in the pressure of the gasoline vapours, the excess vapours are directed to go out the vent pipes.

There is no way to make this process hermetically sealed.

This video is from 2006. It is about a type of new (then) camera technology that was developed, that makes gasoline (and other chemical) fumes visible. The footage when the inspector pops off the ground level covers for the underground tanks is pretty horrifying. The vapours blacken her face, hands, shoes and parts of her clothing with an exposure to the opened plate, that is less than 10 seconds. That is not even with them opened with the coupler device placed on top:

This is Stage 1 vapour recovery. Stage 2 is the special nozzles that are supposed to recover vapours while a vehicle is being filled at the pump. The Vapour Recovery system allegedly collects 96% of the vapours that would be released into the environment.

Here’s a simple diagram:

VaporRecovery.jpg

This is an excruciatingly boring educational video from 2012, produced by USA’s Environmental Protection Agency. It outlines how this system is supposed to work:

Since the first infiltration of gasoline vapours into my house (Aug/2018) I have been watching, and photographing the tanker trucks refuelling next door. The process takes about 20 – 30 minutes. On days when there has been NO perceptible gas infiltration, the process and equipment used appears identical to the days when there have been gas vapours in my house. It is the same operator, most of the time. The gas infiltrations have happened on warm days, cold days and very cold days. I have not been keeping track of other variables like wind speed or wind direction, humidity or barometric pressure. The gas infiltration is not happening with every refuelling.

When the TSSA inspector came the first time (Oct. 15, 2018 I think) he said the system had been checked and was working properly. Yet when he returned to observe a refuelling (Oct. 22, 2018), there were visible gas fumes coming from the vent pipe(s) and my front yard smelt very strongly of gasoline fumes. This time my house was not infiltrated.

I believe that no matter how the system is functioning – and it is designed to release excess gas fumes during a refuelling to relieve pressure in the tank – that the location of these vent pipes in relation to my property is unacceptable. Making taller or shorter vent pipes, or putting up a solid barricade wall will in no way solve this issue.

Ontario Regulation 455/94, under the Environmental Protection Act,” Recovery  of Gasoline Vapour In Bulk Transfers” states in Section 7 (Service Stations):

” 2. For each calendar year, the vapour control system must operate properly during 95 per cent of the time during which gasoline is transferred for receipt at the service station.”

https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/940455

From the Government of Canada document CAN/CGSB-3.1000-2013 – Vapour Control systems in gasoline networks ICS 75.200 this statement is repeated, many times, in bold text: ” Discharge of flammable vapours may constitute a fire,  explosion, human health and environmental hazard.”

Click to access P29-003-1000-2013-eng.pdf

Yet there is nothing in ANY code that states what a safe distance from a residence of any type is, from a vent which discharges these vapours !

 

 

What Happens During a Gas Infiltration ?

As I write this (Feb.9, 2019, 11:53 a.m.) a gas infiltration has just happened.

I was at the computer, around 11:20 a.m. when a whiff of something hit my nose. I got up and walked around. In the north bedroom the smell of gas was strong by the windows. I opened the blackout blinds, and could see a tanker truck with two hoses engaged.

Something in me always wants to downplay this – like it isn’t THAT bad.

When I smell gas I walk around the house, into all the rooms. When there is a negative incident with refuelling, the smell is always strongest by the windows on the north side. I guess this is because there is a certain amount of play the windows must have to open and close. This is why on stormy days, even with the storm windows in place, I can feel cold air by certain windows. This depends on what direction the wind is coming from.

Environment Canada’s website says as of right now (11:59 a.m.) that is -9C, pressure 104.5kPa, Dew Point -13.4 C, Humidity 69%, Wind WNW 15 km/hr, Windchill – 15.

At 12:02, the west bedroom on the 2nd floor still smells strongly of gas.

On my walk around the house, the living room smelt the least like gas, the back room behind the kitchen smelt the most like gas. The kitchen smelt strongly, the dining room smelt strongly, the two bedrooms upstairs smelt strongly. The door to the powder room is kept closed. That room smelt slightly. The sewing room did not have much of a smell. The bathroom upstairs did not have much of a smell.

Upstairs, the fumes are stronger when I am seated, than when I stand up.

As I go down the stairs there is point near the landing where I don’t smell gas, then a few steps down from that I really smell gas.

I take a couple of photos as the truck is refuelling, to document that there are two hoses in use.

At 12:11 – approximately 40 minutes after a fuelling, the gas smell is still strong.

I call the Ministry of the Enviroment to make another report. I write down the ID number of my report, and read it back to the representative. This representative asks me how bad this incident is on a scale of 1 -10. That is hard to quantify. I tell her that if a 10 is a refuelling with no vapour control, in the summer, with all the windows open, that this is a 6/10. And that all my doors and windows are closed.

As of 12: 19 p.m. I can still smell gas in the west bedroom. I check the rest of the rooms. One of the cats is laying on a piece of cloth on my worktable, and he looks odd – laying in a funny position with his eyes open. I touch him and he responds and he is fine. The rest of the cats are normal.

Today I go in the basement. It has a window on the north and south sides. I don’t smell gas.

I had a terrible headache/migraine yesterday, which lasted all night. It was with me when I woke up. I took OTC pain medication, which sometimes can help to dull the pain a little. As of now, the pain has intensified.

Is this unrelated, psychosomatic or a result of breathing gasoline vapours that I cannot escape from ?

There is nothing I can do to clear the house of these fumes, except wait.