Wednesday, December 12, 2012

More Fuel Spill Info for Kayakers

Heads up! There's been ANOTHER spill of home heating fuel into the watershed in Greater Victoria. You can read about it here at the Times-Colonist newspaper website. This one's in Saanich (again!) and this time, it's a spill into Blenkinsop Creek, which drains into Swan Lake.  If you've ridden your bike or walked on the Lochside Trail where it approaches McKenzie Avenue and the Galloping Goose trail, you've ridden beside this stream or over its culverts.
The Times-Colonist article noted that:
 A fact sheet from the provincial Environment Ministry says homeowners are potentially liable for cleanup costs whether they are aware of the existence of an oil tank or not.
Scary thought, eh? And home insurance doesn't cover fuel spills. One of the recent cleanups cost the homeowners $35,000.
This spill came after the latest spill that went into Swan Creek, which like Swan Lake, drains into Colquitz Creek and on to Colquitz River and Portage Inlet. Poor Colquitz! We've paddled there several times, and salmon are spawning there again. It's dreadful to think of several fuel spills into that quiet waterway this year, as the Saanich News has been reporting. There are fewer of these fuel spills in nearby Oak Bay because for the last fifteen years, the fire department and municipality have been contacting homeowners to remind them to have unused tanks safely removed.

At this point, I should apologize to regular readers of Kayak Yak. A couple of times now, I have urged readers to go and check any fuel tanks at their homes. I might even have given the impression that if there were flaws in your tanks, you would see them. Of course, if there is a visible flaw in the tank, or an oily patch under it, I'm sure that anyone would immediately get an expert in to service the tank.
But apparently, an old tank can go from "looks ok" to "leaking" pretty darned fast... even when it's been checked by an expert from the fuel oil company. As one homeowner with an unexpected leak said to the Saanich News:
“We had a platinum protection plan where (our oil company) would do sonic testing of the tank to check the thickness of the walls. We were also using their oil that’s supposed to have additives in it that retards corrosion,” Keith says. “We were sort of relying on that plan, to some extent, to give us a head’s up if something was up. At the end of the day that didn’t help us out. We’re kicking ourselves now – it was an old tank, why didn’t we just replace it? For $2,000 we could’ve avoided a ton of grief.”

So I am changing my tune.
No longer will I rant to kayaking friends that they should go out right now and look at the tanks holding fuel for their homes to check for leaks. Of course, my friends have already done that. As well, it seems that leaks can happen suddenly and aren't as obvious as the crack along the coaming in my second-hand Pamlico kayak from Wilderness Systems.
Instead, I will remind you of the statements by experts in the local newspapers: twenty-year-old fuel tanks can and do fail suddenly. If your home/house/building is anything but brand new, make a proper plan! Don't let your home heating system be the cause for an expensive and environmentally damaging spill.
I'm sure anyone would rather buy a new kayak than a new fuel tank... but at least you could stencil a drawing of a pretty kayak onto the side of an above-ground tank. And maybe add the words NEW IN 2012, like my landlady's hotwater heater has written on it the words NEW IN 19... ohmygosh, it's time to replace the hotwater heater here. Well, at least this appliance wouldn't leak petroleum products!

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