Saanich family launches lawsuit over contaminated soil

Couple believe up to 1,600 tonnes of contaminated soil could be on their Goward Road property

Peter and Cathy Blazkow stand in front of contaminated soil that was removed from their property at 240 Goward Rd.

Peter and Cathy Blazkow stand in front of contaminated soil that was removed from their property at 240 Goward Rd.

A Saanich family that uncovered a massive amount of oil contamination in their property have launched a civil suit against the previous owner of the property.

The Blazkow family, headed by Cathy and Peter, bought the agriculturally zoned five-acre-lot of 240 Goward Rd. in 2012. They discovered a major oil contamination in the ground last year during the excavation process to replace the garage.

“What we thought was 80 tonnes of contaminated soil was actually 800 tonnes, and it is estimated by our environmental cleanup company that they believe it will be 1,600 tonnes,” Blazkow said.

To date, the mound of soil sits between layers of tarp on the edge of the Blazkow property. The total cost of cleanup has ballooned into the tens of thousands of dollars with some cheques as high as $23,000. And the costs look to go up even further. Blazkow says she is still awaiting word from the environmental company whether it can be removed for remediation at a Vancouver Island site or if, as previously believed, it will have to be barged over to the mainland at a great expense.

Blazkow was surprised Saanich was unaware of the issue, as she was able to view trucks and tanks on the property through GIS aerial photos online (Saanich Bylaw does not use aerial photos for enforcement).

After a few months of dealing with Saanich and the province (the latter oversees environmental issues), the Blazkows filed a civil claim on Dec. 20. It names defendants Helen West, Rick Hughes and Victoria Tank Service Ltd.

“We’re also trying to complete a statement of damage or injury with Saanich but I don’t expect that will amount to anything,” Blazkow said.

A Saanich spokesperson told another media that the district takes bylaw complaints very seriously and diligently investigates complaints received from citizens.

Saanich Bylaw Enforcement responded to two complaints about 240 Goward Rd. – on July 3, 2002 and July 30, 2004 – with the first file closed once compliance had been achieved while investigation into the second complaint found no violation took place.

There are precedents for previous owners found partly responsible for oil contamination in Saanich. Most recently, the unknown home-heating oil tank buried under the backyard of Gavin Edwards’ and Donna Wingfield’s home on Adelaide Avenue leaked downhill through several properties and into the Gorge Waterway.

In February 2015, Edwards and Wingfield were ordered to pay 15 per cent of the neighbour’s cleanup costs, which were estimated at more than $100,000.

However, two of the previous owners of Edwards’ and Wingfield’s home were also ordered to pay, 50 per cent and 35 per cent, respectively.

Not surprisingly, the Blazkow’s home value decreased this year as B.C. Assessment Authority dropped it to $646,000 from $771,000.

“It was going to be an increase of 25 per cent like the rest of the neighbourhood until we stepped in and told [the B.C. Assessment agent] that it’s contaminated,” Blazkow said. “There’s no way we could sell this place [like this] if we wanted to.”