In the Dec. 10 Oak Bay News article “Blasting forces Oak Bay family from home”, Mayor Nils Jensen was quoted as saying, “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.” The incident he was referring to was not about wayward falling rocks or cracked plaster, which are rare with modern blast techniques, but an incident of deadly carbon monoxide gas being forced into a family home by blasting on the next-door lot.
The mayor’s offhand comment was extremely irresponsible because it may lull neighbours of a blasting site into a false sense of security. In truth, anyone living near a blasting site must remain vigilant, for their very lives depend on it. The release of poisonous gas by blasting is not a rarity as the mayor would have us believe, but a chemical certainty. Every blast creates huge volumes of gases under extreme pressure, including carbon monoxide. Some of it is pushed up into the air, and some of it is pushed down and along through underground fissures, faults and pipes.
Carbon monoxide is a deadly, invisible, odourless, tasteless gas … a silent and quick killer. The only rare thing about the spread of carbon monoxide underground by blasting, is how rarely it is detected. This rare detection comes in two forms … due to a carbon monoxide sensor near a floor drain, or by an emergency room physician. Rare only because most people do not have carbon monoxide sensors in their basements, and because people are rarely in their basements when the blasting occurs.
Because of the innocent families who died of carbon monoxide poisoning in their homes in Quebec in the 1990s, scientific investigations were carried out and recommendations were made to mines, blasting companies and civic governments. For instance, in West Vancouver the blasting bylaw is a 16-page technical document which ensures that safeguards are in place before any blasting permit is issued. In comparison, Oak Bay doesn’t even have a specific blasting bylaw to protect our lives … just a brief subsection tacked onto the permit bylaw.
Until a bylaw is enacted in Oak Bay that is at least as comprehensive as West Vancouver’s, and until that new bylaw assures more safety for all of us, all blasting within 100 meters of any occupied building should be postponed. The incident that caused the mayor’s quote is clear proof of this.
Children innocently playing in their own home could have died.