Scarborough residents fuming over fumes from gas station

There's a wooden fence, cedar trees and even a fire-proof wall between him and a neighbouring Shell station, but Richard Martin says nothing stops the gas fumes from drifting over his property, into his home and into his lungs.

Ministry of Environment has cleared the site but residents say the problem persists

Martin Richards says gas fumes from a neighbouring Shell station are making him sick. (Trevor Dunn)

There's a wooden fence, cedar trees and even a fire-proof wall between him and a neighbouring Shell station, but Richard Martin says nothing stops the gas fumes from drifting over his property, into his home and into his lungs.

"The whole second floor of our house is full of gas," Richards said in an interview at his home, located next door to the station on Kingston Road near McCowan Road.

"I end up with a sore throat. You get a headache. It's very unpleasant."

The source of the fumes is the station's underground gas tanks. Richards says they are re-filled at least once a day and when that happens fumes are released from the tanks' vents.

Richards says other residents in the area have also complained about the fumes.

Richards says the gas fumes are emitted when the station's underground tanks are re-filled, as seen in this photo he submitted. (Martin Richards)
The fuel vents are just metres from Martin Richards's home near Kingston Road and McCowan Road. (Trevor Dunn)

"We're in the pool, standing there, and all of a sudden you get this big wave of gas."

Richards said on one occasion the fumes were so strong he had to be hospitalized.

"There was a huge gas bubble. It descended on my car and burned my lungs."

Martin Richards points to the vents beside his property that he says are releasing strong gas fumes. (Trevor Dunn)

Ministry investigation

Ontario's Ministry of the Environment has investigated and visited the gas station several times during tank re-filling. In a statement to CBC News, the ministry says during those visits it did not detect off-site gas odours.

The statement says "the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA), which is the lead agency in Ontario responsible for fuel handling and storage, has found that all vapour recovery equipment has been installed properly according to its Liquid Fuels Handling Code."

The ministry has been in touch with Shell, the statement says, and the company has installed video surveillance. The ministry says footage provided has been reviewed by its staff and shows the gas station is operating within regulatory requirements.

The statement adds that "Toronto Public Health as well as Toronto Fire have also attended refueling events and have not expressed any health concerns."

Report says concerns are 'valid'

However, Richards says he has information that contradicts all that.

Last June, he says he was forced to call Toronto Fire during a particularly bad day for fumes.

In the incident report, which Richards obtained through a Freedom of Information request, a Toronto Fire Services captain called the concerns "valid", saying "strong gas fumes" can reach "4-5 houses south from the station" and that "this is a health and potential fire hazard."

A Toronto Fire incident report, obtained and provided by Martin Richards.

Problem started with gas station rebuild 

Richards and his partner have lived beside the Shell station for eight years but the trouble with fumes only started recently, after the gas station was re-built.

The new configuration saw the fuel tanks and vents moved directly beside Richards's property.

Previously, they were located on the other side of the Shell property, just off Kingston Road, as seen in this Google Street View image. Richards' property is visible in the background, separated by a white fence.

The previous location of the fuel vents can be seen in this Google Street View image. Richards' property can be seen in the background behind the white fence. (Google)

Shell says renovation 'exceeded the TSSA's strict regulations'

In a statement to CBC News, Shell says that when the site renovations were completed "we ensured that they met or exceeded the TSSA's strict regulations."

The statement says Shell has been working with neighbours to address their concerns and has installed equipment that reduces the release of gas fumes that goes beyond TSSA health and safety requirements.

In fact, Shell says the underground gas tanks are located farther away from Richards' property than required.

The company's statement also says it has taken additional steps to address neighbours' concerns about the station, such as installing a privacy fence, changing garbage pick-up times and adjusting the hours of its car wash after getting noise complaints.