Former homeowners must pay upwards of $120K to clean up neighbour's property contaminated by oil tank

Current and former owners of a Saanich home with a leaking underground oil tank must pay the costs of cleaning up their neighbour’s property, a B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled.

“Of course, I’m very relieved,” said Gina Dolinsky, who owns the neighbouring home in the 2800-block Adelaide Avenue. “It’s almost been three years of a very difficult process and a very difficult time,” she said Friday.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Randall Wong ordered past and present owners of the property at 2839 Adelaide Ave., site of the heating-fuel tank that leaked onto Dolinsky’s property, to pay her cleanup costs.

Dolinsky began her court action on April 19, 2013. “I sure wouldn’t want to be in their position. I didn’t want to pursue it that way, but it’s the only recourse I had to get the remediation done.”

Dolinsky said she will be compensated for the $30,000 she paid to investigate where the oil was coming from. In addition, after a professional estimated the cost of remediating her property at between $60,000 and $120,000, the defendants have been told to put $90,000 in a trust.

“If it’s more, they’ll have to pay more. If it’s less, they’ll get the money back,” Dolinsky said.

The current owners, Gavin Edwards and Donna Wingfield, were ordered to pay 15 per cent of the cleanup costs. Former owner Balwinder Kaur Bal was told to pay 50 per cent, and former owners Roberto and Crystal Rael must pay 35 per cent.

The contamination was discovered on March 4, 2012, when Saanich engineers saw oil spilling into the Gorge Waterway from the storm drain at the bottom of Adelaide Avenue. They found oil coming through a drainage tile on Dolinsky’s property.

Over the next nine months, Dolinsky, with the help of an environmental consultant, determined the oil was coming from the neighbour’s property, but she was unable to find the source. She was told that until the source was removed, the oil would continue to come onto her property.

On Dec. 2 and 3, 2012, oil flowed onto her property again, and into the Gorge Waterway. Concerned about the threat to the marine environment, the Environment Ministry stepped in to find and remove the source of the contamination.

On Dec. 6, 2012, an environmental consulting company found an old underground tank containing home heating oil at the property at 2839 Adelaide. It was perforated, corroded and contained hydrocarbon product. The soil surrounding the tank was saturated with groundwater and hydrocarbon product.

The oil tank, 80 kilograms of sludge, 1,900 litres of oily water from inside the tank and 12.82 tonnes of contaminated soil from around the tank were removed from the neighbour’s property between Dec. 7 and 10, 2012.

In January 2013, Edwards and Wingfield hired an environmental company to remove large portions of the contaminated soil from their property and Dolinsky’s property.

Although significant remediation has occurred, both properties remain contaminated and further remediation is required, Wong said in his ruling.

Bal owned the property from 1968 to 2002. Court was told that Bal had the old oil tank decommissioned in 1981 and her oil supply company drained the tank and disconnected it from the house, which was converted to electric heat.

The judge found that oil remained in the tank, leading to the contamination. He rejected suggestions the oil came from somewhere else.

The Raels owned the property from March to August 2012. They bought the house to renovate and resell.

The person who owned the property from 2002 until 2012 could not be tracked down, Dolinsky said.

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