A house construction project gone awry is causing millions of litres of groundwater to spill from an aquifer in South Vancouver and is threatening several homes in the area.
The spill started in September, when provincial and city documents show businessman Feng Lin Liu was building a new home at 7084 Beechwood Ave. The project included drilling for a geothermal heating and cooling system.
"The drilling hit a pressurized aquifer, creating the uncontrolled, flowing well that was left uncapped," said the city in a written statement. "The water is currently being managed by pumping it into the city's combined sewer system on a temporary basis."
The city says the company hired to do the drilling, Geoenergia, was unlicensed and didn't comply with provincial regulations. The company appears to have disappeared from B.C. — an online search shows it is now based in Italy.
CBC tried to contact Geoenergia several times by phone and email, but did not hear back.
The City of Vancouver has issued evacuation alerts to residents of about a dozen homes in the area, warning they may have to leave due to potential flooding if a sinkhole develops.
The city says groundwater is the province's jurisdiction, but it's keeping an eye on work done by the new contractor hired by the owner, at his own cost, to manage the damaged aquifer.
Solution under pressure
Geological engineer Roger Beckie says the contractors should have known the aquifer was there.
"The aquifers in British Columbia have been mapped by the provincial government, and my expectation would be that most contractors would know about them," Beckie said, adding the contractor may not have anticipated the high pressure of the aquifer.
Resolving the issue will take more time than simply pouring concrete to fill the hole.
"It's the rate at which the water is coming out that prevents them from plugging it," he said. "When the fluid is moving that quickly, you can't just jam the cement in."
Beckie says the contractor will first need to drill relief wells to reduce the pressure, and then should be able to pour the concrete.