The Saanich couple who discovered a historic oil spill on their Goward Road property in 2016 have since run out of money to deal with it and are awaiting the 2019 court date for the lawsuit they’ve filed against the former owners.
The hope for Cathy and Peter Blazkow is they will win back much of the money they’ve spent, so they can continue remediating the soil. Until then the Blazkows are $300,000 deep into remediation costs to deal with about 800 tonnes of contaminated soil which they uncovered on the property. And now they’re out of money, the soil remains, and the garage they were trying to build when they discovered the oil is nothing but a foundation.
“We spent all of our money, we had to sell our family house from Gordon Head [which we were renting out], I also had an inheritance from my aunt but that money is now gone,” Cathy said.
What they thought was going to be their pristine retirement property in the rich forests of the Prospect Lake area has been nothing of the sort.
The couple bought the five-acre property with a house, barn, garage, workshop, horse paddock and riding ring at 240 Goward Rd. in 2012. Their daughter’s family, with the Blazkows’ granddaughter, moved into the home too. The plan was to replace the workshop with a two-storey garage that had an upstairs office. That was 2015. Even after the workshop was initially razed there was no sign of contamination.
It wasn’t until the builders dug down to install the foundation for the new garage that they discovered the contaminated soil. An environmental company was brought in and confirmed the presence of oil, including diesel and industrial strength cleaning agents. The excavated soil is too contaminated to ship anywhere and so, it sits in three large mounds on top of tarps.
“It’s lucky we found it,” Peter said. “Where it was, it was sitting in a bowl of bedrock but over time the contaminants would start leeching into the water table.”
The Blazkows are also lucky their own well water was uphill from the contamination. After paying nearly $200,000 for the initial excavation the couple found a company that specializes in remediating oil contamination on site, meaning the soil can stay put. That process is underway and they still owe the remediation company $20,000 and are facing at least $50,000 more to finish the process of using enzymes that metabolize the hydrocarbons.
“They got us started on the enzyme process, it actually breaks down the contaminants,” Cathy said.
The couple took on the process themselves, buying huge drums, pumps and driplines, as well as a $2,000 shovel for the front of their daughter’s Bobcat to level out the mounds of dirt, which now have drip lines laid across them in formation. Each day Peter would fill a pair industrial-sized drums with a mix of the enzymes and nitrates. It would take a few hours for the solution to mix and populate and then he’d turn on the pump and let it drip onto the mound of dirt. But a bucket of enzymes only lasts so long, and at $2,000 per bucket, they’ve stopped buying them. However, the plan is to start again once they can afford it.
Soon after discovering the oil Cathy learned her neighbours had made complaints about an industrial use of the property, including trucks with oil tanks coming and going. Saanich GIS photos also showed evidence of the tanks on the property.
A Dec. 20, 2016 lawsuit names defendants Helen West, Rick Hughes and Victoria Tank Service Ltd.