Burnside transit garage fuel leak cleanup costs double

The cost to clean up a diesel fuel leak at Halifax Transit’s Burnside garage has doubled. Three months ago, the estimated cost was $1 million. It is now being pegged at about $2.5 million.
Shannon Miedema says the city is exploring legal and insurance options to recover its costs associated with the leak at the Halifax Transit garage in Burnside. (CBC)

The cost to clean up a diesel fuel leak at Halifax Transit’s Burnside garage has more than doubled. Three months ago, the estimated cost was $1 million. It is now being pegged at about $2.5 million.

CBC News has learned that while the city and its environmental consultants were searching for the cause of fuel contamination on the site for months, neither party was aware there was a massive leak underway at the time.

In January 2013, four underground tanks were removed. At the time, nobody realized the tanks were still connected to an above-ground fuelling system. When the tanks were removed, the underground pipes were not capped.

“They should not have been left open like that. There should have been something done, whether they were capped or just fully removed. We wouldn’t be here today if that had been the case,” said Shannon Miedema, the city's environmental performance officer.

The city hired international consulting firm AMEC to check the soil after the tanks were removed. Staff discovered hydrocarbon contamination.

AMEC was still looking for the source this spring when a large fuel leak showed up a kilometre away at a car dealership. The pollution eventually reached the Bedford Basin.

It took six more weeks for AMEC to establish the source as being a ditch next to the Halifax Transit property.

A concrete pit adjacent to the old tanks was excavated and the next day it filled up with diesel. The bus garage was sitting on a pool of diesel with as much as 200,000 litres of fuel.

“You know, it was a difficult site to work on in the first place. They really thought it was coming from another source property for quite a long time and we haven’t really had discussions around whether that was a reasonable assumption or not,” said Miedema.

Two days after CBC News revealed the leak, AMEC was replaced by another consultant, Conestoga-Rovers, at the request of insurers.

The city is planning legal action, but has not filed any documentation.

AMEC declined to answer CBC’s questions about the case, citing an ongoing insurance investigation.