There is a saying that "the law is an ass." As it concerns residential underground oil tanks, it is all too true ($90K Oil Tank Bill Sparks Warning, Aug. 8, North Shore News).
Government authorities, fire officials and insurance companies lament that there are many oil tanks not being attended to. Is this a surprise, when remediation and disposal costs $50,000, $90,000, $150,000? I suppose in reality the sky is the limit.
The tanks that were legal at the time they were installed are now the target of environmentalism, and current owners find themselves stuck with the bill. If the oil tanks are so dangerous why do we not hear of frequent explosions, fires and gross pollution?
The current policy is motivated by environmental correctness and the associated over-zealous application of draconian rules and regulations. The contamination is buried unless searched for: No smell; no visible escape; healthy lawns, shrubs and vegetable gardens; uncontaminated basements, etc.
Common sense suggests the rules could be relaxed to require only the removal of the tanks and the pumping out of residual oil and sludge to prevent more contamination than already exists. Let nature do the rest.
With this approach, the financial risk to the owner would be predictable. Landscape damage would also be minimized. Many owners would probably be far more willing to face a $10,000 bill than an open-ended nightmare.
If the rules must remain unchanged, it could be argued that some portion of the remediation costs should be borne by the regulating bodies, as they produced the current situation by developing these onerous regulations.
Much of the problem falls on older the neighbourhoods that used the underground tanks. Meanwhile, those neighbourhoods also incur their full share of taxes to help finance new roads, curbs, lights, underground utilities, and so on for new neighbourhoods, while not receiving many of these benefits for themselves.
As a radical suggestion, maybe new neighbourhoods now should help defray the cost of soil remediation through some increase of taxes for all local taxpayers.
This would help alleviate financial and emotional hardship for "tank owners," and at the same time help the environment by encouraging a more expeditious removal of existing tanks than is now occurring.
Douglas Grant West Vancouver