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/

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

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

 

The (expensive)burden of truth

The burden of truth is a complicated concept. The philosophical approach deviates somewhat from the legal perspective. In a legal perspective the wronged party must demonstrate proof of the harm that was done.

From this paper: “From Permissive regulation to Preventative Design in Environmental  Decision Making” by M’Gonigle, Jamieson, McAllister and Peterman, Osgoode Hall law Journal (1994)

https://digitalcommons.osgoode.yorku.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1678&context=ohlj

“Private citizens may have recourse to a number of common law causes of action to protect both their private interests and, indirectly, those of the environment. These include the torts of private and public nuisance, riparian rights, trespass, negligence, and strict liability. Of all the causes of action, however, only a public nuisance action might lead to a remedy for environmental damage per se (usually through the intervention of the Attorney General 38), as all the other causes of actions require the plaintiff to establish that a personal, proprietary interest has been affected. In such civil actions, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to show that, on a balance of probabilities, health and/or private property has suffered as a result of the defendent’s actions. Environmental protection through the common law occurs as a by-product of such civil actions. The plaintiff may seek compensation by way of damages or may ask the court to grant an injection to prevent a potential, or ongoing wrong. Thus, the common law achieves environmental protection either by granting an injunction to deter the defendant from allowing the wrong to continue or by requiring payment, both of which act as deterrents to others who may undertake similar actions. 39”

In my situation, I must prove that there are gasoline vapours in my house, which originate from the improperly located vent pipes.

  • Air quality sampling, conducted by trained personnel : $2200.00 plus HST, per samples gathered on a single day

I contacted FLIR Systems, who manufacture the camera that makes gasoline vapours visible (“Optical Gas Imaging” is what they call it). To purchase a camera is extremely expensive, like close to a hundred thousand dollars or more. They have a distributor in Ontario, who offers a rental. However, the representative I spoke with could not answer my questions about whether an individual who was not a trained operator would be able to use the footage as legal evidence. It astonishes me that the TSSA and MOE or any of the Environmental Consultants I spoke with do not use this camera in their investigations.

–  FLIR Systems camera rental: $ 4500.00 plus HST per week

My vets could neither prove nor disprove my various cat’s illnesses as being a result of being exposed to concentrated gasoline vapours within my home, on multiple occasions. There is very little medical literature about gasoline vapour inhalation in a veterinary context (v.s. tests on lab mice or rats). A necropsy could provide information about what was going on in a deceased animal’s body (ie location and type of tumours, toxicology, etc.) . However, a necropsy could not indicate what caused the illness, unless it was a result of something like blunt force trauma or a mechanical obstruction.

https://www.acvp.org/page/Necropsy

– Necropsy, performed by a licensed veterinary pathologist : $ 900.00 plus the cost of transportation to Guelph, and cremation afterwards

With regards to my cat’s illnesses, while their symptoms can be documented, and if there is a cluster of unrelated cats in a household all having similar illnesses that are not the result of a specific food, or products used within the home, proving that their illnesses are a result of the numerous gas vapour infiltrations becomes much more challenging. Correlation is not causation, so the relationship between gasoline vapours and their particular illnesses must be proven, not presumed or suspected:

https://www.understandinghealthresearch.org/useful-information/correlation-and-causation-15

Anyone who has watched nightime t.v. dramas has seen the myth of the crafty, underdog lawyer who gathers valuable evidence that everyone else missed, and the courtroom gasps as the judge bangs his (95% his) gavel and finds the bad guys guilty.

It is my experience that life does not work this way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.