Leak under Vancouver Shell Gas Station causes problems for homeowners.....

VANCOUVER -- At least 78 properties in Vancouver's Kerrisdale neighbourhood have been contaminated by a historic gas leak under a Shell gas station, the company said Monday.

Of those, all but six are homes on streets around Granville Street and 41st Avenue, according to Jeff Gabert, Shell's senior communications manager. The rest are commercial properties and the city's roads.

News of the contaminated sites leaked out Monday after Shell scheduled a private meeting with all the affected owners at the Arbutus Club to update them on the company's investigation. Staff from the provincial Ministry of Environment and city of Vancouver are also attending the meeting.

Gabert said the leak was first discovered in 2006 when Shell began renovations of its station on the northwest corner of Granville at 41st. The property has been a gas station for nearly 80 years.

The company doesn't know how the leak occurred but testing showed hydrocarbons had seeped about 60 feet deep and got into groundwater table, Gabert said. Initial tests in the neighbourhood confirmed a number of surrounding properties were affected.

But when the provincial environment ministry amended regulations that required more stringent testing, the company widened its notification to the 78 properties and is continuing to do more testing.

"We still have to finish delineation. We feel we are pretty close to finding the size and scope of this."

Gabert insisted there doesn't appear to be any risk to homeowners because of the significant depth of the contamination plume.

"In general, this is contamination that is quite deep, about 60 feet. There is not going to be any health issues associated with this, but then every single property owner will have concerns, whether they are health and safety or property value," he said.

But the contamination does have an impact on homeowners when they go to sell.

"If they go to sell their property, they have to disclose to the people who are buying, and because of that we are helping in that process," Gabert said. "So far homes that have been sold in the area have been sold at list price or above."

Gabert said the gas station's soils were properly remediated in 2006. The station remains in operation.

David McLellan, Vancouver's general manager of community services, said the city isn't worried about the size or effect of the contamination. Shell is complying with environment ministry protocols, he said, and there are many former gas stations and old industrial sites that are under remediation elsewhere in the city.

"From what we've been advised, this one is quite deep in the land," McLellan said. "But you have to remember that the city has lots of contaminated sites. The entire area around False Creek was once an industrial neighbourhood and it has been successfully remediated."

McLellan said Shell showed the city maps that show the plume spread southwest from the gas station, across 41st Avenue. They may affect 78 properties but the size of the leak is smaller than some contaminated areas on rail lands within the city, he said.

jefflee@vancouversun.com



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