Clean up of petro-chemical leak underway for months 

Pipes run into a couple of curious buildings hidden behind wooden fences on the Whistler Petro-Canada and Creekside Lodge sites, and every few days engineers visit to check machines inside the buildings.

The structures and pipes are part of an effort to remove petro-chemicals and hydrocarbons that have leaked from the Petro-Canada station storage tanks and contaminated the ground around the station and beyond.

The leak is believed to have come from one of the distribution lines on the Petro-Canada site, "probably for a number of years," said Stephen Dankevy, pollution prevention officer at the Ministry of Water, Air and Land Protection. A hydrocarbon "plume" of contaminated soil and ground water now extends southwest from the service station, beneath London Lane, Highway 99 and to the edge of the Whistler Creek Lodge property.

The leaky pipe has since been fixed and the station’s storage tanks pressure tested. "There’s no reason to suspect further leakages," said Joe Paul of the municipality’s public works department.

However, remediation efforts are expected to take some time. Exactly how long is unclear.

"Some sites can take years to clean up," Dankevy said. "They haven’t told me how long it will take, but they will have to at some point."

Petro-Canada began remediation efforts on its own site and adjacent lands several months ago. According to a consultant hired by the municipality to advise them on the clean-up, Petro-Canada has enacted an aggressive remediation plan.

"We’re somewhat comforted by that," Paul said.

But even though the remediation efforts are underway, the plan is still being reviewed by the Ministry of Water, Air and Land Protection.

"The plan for cleaning up off-site has to be approved by the ministry," Dankevy said. "We’re reviewing it now but we have a backlog of cases. While we’re waiting for that to clear there’s no reason for us to stand in the way of them getting started."

The municipality first became aware of the contaminated ground early in 2000.

"(Petro-Canada) came to us for permission to drill exploratory holes in the road to look for leakage," Paul said. "We were concerned they suspected they had leakage off site."

Dankevy said the ministry originally got involved because the municipality was concerned about a drinking well in the Creekside area, near the chamber of commerce office. The well, which is only used periodically and will eventually be shut down by the municipality, was not found to be at risk.

A total of 60 holes were drilled on the Petro-Canada property and off-site, including the Whistler Housing Authority’s Beaver Flats property. The holes helped delineate the extent of the plume and the type of remediation work needed. According to Paul, the drilling report was sent to the then-Ministry of Environment, which signed off on the Beaver Flats site. Intrawest’s property and Whistler Creek itself were also found to be unaffected.

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