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Heating oil spill into Gorge traced to nearby home's abandoned tank

Dec 08 2012
Heavy equipment works on Adelaide Avenue in Saanich where heating oil has been leaking into the Gorge. 

Heavy equipment works on Adelaide Avenue in Saanich where heating oil has been leaking into the Gorge.

Photograph by: Darren Stone, Times Colonist , Times Colonist

A contractor using ground penetrating radar has found the source of two heating oil spills that flowed into public storm drains, then into the Gorge Waterway this year.

The abandoned oil tank with 2,000 litres of an oil-water mixture was discovered Thursday in a yard adjacent to Gina Dolinksy's home on Adelaide Avenue, said Graham Knox, B.C.'s environmental emergency program manager.

The discovery of the old tank is a relief for Dolinsky, who was on the hook for thousands of dollars in cleanup costs when oil started running through her property into the Gorge Waterway - even though the oil did not originate from her home.

The abandoned tank was emptied and removed from the site. The area around the hole was excavated and contaminated soil hauled away. Then the hole was lined and topped up with clean fill, Knox said.

"At this point, we don't know how long it's been there and whether the former owner, who sold the property between March and now, knew about it," Knox said.

The first spill occurred in March and was assumed to be coming from a house farther up Adelaide where an oil company driver delivered more than 300 litres of home heating oil to a disconnected tank. That house was demolished but subsequent tests showed the oil on Dolinsky's property did not come from there.

On Sunday, oil spilled from her Adelaide Avenue property a second time, even though her heating oil tank is not leaking and her oil furnace is working properly.

Because the Environment Ministry didn't know who was responsible and needed to identify the source to prevent further spills, it hired contractors to trace the source of the oil.

Gavin Edwards, the current owner, was not aware there was an abandoned tank buried in the yard and is using electricity to heat his home, not home heating oil, Knox said.

The ministry's next step is to restore Dolinsky's and Edwards' backyards to the way they were before the problem, Knox said.

A temporary road was built to allow for the removal of the tank. The homeowners will have to decide in the next few days whether they want the ministry to leave the temporary road in place while they do additional work on their properties. They might need the road to get equipment in, he said.

Knox estimated that the cost to find and remove the tank may be less than $10,000.

The question now is who will pay.

"We're seeking legal advice from our solicitors to determine whether our costs will be passed back to the original owner or split between the original owner and the current owner," Knox said.

It's also possible the government could decide not to recover its costs, he said.

Dolinsky can talk to the neighbour about whether he will cover costs, Knox said.

Edwards could not be reached for comment. ldickson@timescolonist.com

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