Work to prepare a lot for construction sent one Oak Bay family scrambling from their home in the middle of the night.
Blasting work began Friday to clear away rock and prepare a lot for construction on Woodlawn Crescent. After conducting three blasts, neighbour Chris Robertson noticed the carbon monoxide readings had spiked at his home on 2281 Woodlawn Cres.
“Within less than eight hours, all of the carbon monoxide alarms in our house were sounding,” said Robertson. “We called the fire department and sure enough the levels were way beyond the Health Canada maximum. In fact, the firefighter told me they could be lethal with eight hours of exposure.”
Robertson did some quick research and found that blasting can cause a phenomenon known as advection, where the toxic fumes produced by the blast are trapped underground and travel through fissures in the ground.
“In our case they’re coming up into our perimeter drain which vents into a drain pipe in our crawlspace,” said Robertson, adding the crawlspace is used for the home’s air circulation system.
Robertson demanded blasting stop until it could be done safely. He said Oak Bay district officials came to the home on Monday, placing a carbon monoxide monitor in the crawlspace and directing the contractor to resume blasting.
According to a release from the District of Oak Bay, the fire department could not determine the cause of the raised carbon monoxide levels and rendered the home safe for occupancy.
“I think early on, my understanding is there was an insufficient link between the blasting and the gas discharge,” said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen. “I’m told it’s happened 18 times over the last 25-plus years so it’s extremely rare. We’ve never heard about anything of that nature before.”
Three more blasts were conducted Monday afternoon, shortly before Robertson and his wife were scheduled to attend their staff Christmas party.
“Our 11-year-old daughter called us and said, ‘Daddy, there’s a beeping sound coming from the basement’,” said Robertson.
He asked his daughter to check the meter and she found it read 122 parts per million, more than 12 times Health Canada’s limit for long-term exposure.
“Immediately we told our girls to evacuate our house with our dogs and they had to stand in the rain while we rushed home.”
Robertson called 911 who dispatched the fire department.
“They measured levels in the crawlspace at over 200 parts per million. They issued us a compliance order saying we are not allowed to occupy our house until the situation is resolved.”
The Robertsons packed up the kids, two dogs and a cat and headed to the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, renting a pair of rooms.
Robertson was told there is still another week of blasting that needs to be conducted and he planned to seek a court injunction to have the work stopped, however, the District of Oak Bay issued a stop work order Tuesday afternoon. According to the release from the district, it is attempting to mediate a co-operative solution between the neighbours.
“As a condition of the permit, as is standard practice, the District of Oak Bay is indemnified from any damage resulting from the blasting,” stated the release.