Toxic Gas Cloud Sickens Oil Patch Residents
2010-07-08 0:00

By Bob Weber | YahooNews.ca

Richard Langer was working on his farm just outside Peace River, Alta., one morning last spring when he saw the gas cloud drift through.

"It was sort of a blue-green cloud," he recalls.

The smell — a gassy, tarry reek like a hundred roofing crews working at once — was bad enough. Then a truck idling in the middle of the cloud suddenly revved as if someone stomped the pedal.

That’s when Langer, 71, felt something bad.

"My rib was kind of popping under my shirt," he said. His heart was racing, just like the truck engine.

His wife took him in to hospital and he wound up in intensive care. After he released, the doctor asked him what he would do next.

"The doctor said, ’where are you going? I said home.’ He looked shocked."

Langer was born on this land that his father homesteaded. Now, he’s thinking of leaving.

"We’ve lived here all our life," he said. "Our house is paid for and we should have some easy coasting ahead.

"Now, I don’t know."

Langer is one of a couple dozen landowners in the verdant farm and ranchland outside of this town of about 6,700 who all have the same questions: why, after two decades of living peacefully beside the area’s busy oilpatch, have the chemical smells gotten to the point where they’re driving people away?

There were some answers Tuesday night after Alberta Environment released the results of extensive air monitoring.

The study found that chemicals in the air at the affected homes were in some cases more than 40 times higher than normal.

It also concedes that the powerful smells that may be sickening people and animals come from the oilpatch, but the study released at the community meeting doesn’t pinpoint the source.

The government says it will form a committee of industry, regulators and residents to try to solve the problem.

Many have been living with air sampling canisters right in their living rooms for weeks.

"In terms of a quiet little spot in the boonies, it’s unbelievably changed our lives," said Langer’s neighbour Diane Plowman, a teacher who’s lived here for 25 years.

Peace River is the smallest of Alberta’s three major oilsands areas, but it’s still home to several pilot projects and Shell’s Cadotte Lake operation. Residents understand the realities of living with industry, but last fall an occasional inconvenience became rather more.

The chemical smell began wafting in three or four times a week, especially on weekends.

People complain of headaches, burning eyes and throats that are itchy and parched. Working in it leaves one disoriented and tired.

A bad bout results in diarrhea, for people and their pets.

"My big dogs were in their kennel one night," said Doug Dallyn. "They were lying in it for six hours before I had a chance to clean them up."

The smell gets inside homes. People smell it on their pillowcases for days afterwards.

Fingers have been pointed at fumes venting off Shell’s huge asphalt tanks, and the company has been ordered to reduce them.

But the real culprit, residents say, is a disjointed regulatory system that makes it hard for citizens to get answers and easy for bureaucrats to pass the buck.

"Everything is granted individually to those big companies, but no one oversees the big picture," said Diane’s husband, Bob.

Responsibility for the oilpatch is divided among several government departments, the Energy and Resources Conservation Board and even the local municipal district. It’s hard for people busy with their regular lives to sort through who does what — and then to press them for action.

"Time after time, you get token responses," said Diane Plowman. "It’s kind of deflating."

Similar conflicts between the energy industry and local people flare up all over the province, but nobody has the time to form a united front.

"You are so busy working on your own issue and trying to keep your life in order, it’s hard to keep in touch across the province and the government knows that," she said.

Plowman said now that the study’s results are out, getting action may be another story.

"It’s compromise all the time to the point where industry always wins."

Meanwhile, Langer looks up from the hay rake he’s repairing and looks around the only home he’s ever known. He doesn’t know what’s in the air or how to make it stop either, but he knows one thing.

"A guy shouldn’t have to leave his land ..."

Article from: ca.news.yahoo.com



Related Articles
12,000 endangered saiga antelope found dead in Kazakhstan
The Sheep Incident
Will the Gulf Oil Disaster Lead to an Explosion of the Seabed? Poisonous Gas Cloud and Tsunami Worst Case Scenario
Gas piped in to blow up Calif. building
New York City’s gas smell remains a mystery


Latest News from our Front Page

Pressure from the United Patriots Front Stops Mosque Plan
2016-04-28 20:10
Pressure from the United Patriots Front appears to have killed off a mosque development in Narre Warren North. The City of Casey council now looks likely to withhold planning approval for the development in a special meeting set for Tuesday night. A council report, to be considered by councillors on Tuesday, recommends that the approval be blocked. The mosque opponents’ cause has been helped by councillor ...
Police face questions over the influence of the Freemasons
2016-04-28 20:48
South Yorkshire Police today face questions over whether powerful 'secret society' the Freemasons held sway over the force at the time of Hillsborough. Families of victims say that officers who were Masons were promoted into powerful positions despite being ill-equipped, including match commander David Duckenfield. Duckenfield told the fresh inquests he had been a Freemason since 1975 and became head of his ...
England Bans its Own Flag to Avoid Offending Muslims
2016-04-27 2:23
St. George's Cross "racist" towards immigrants Government officials said their city was ‘too multicultural’ to celebrate St George’s Day, England’s version of the 4th of July. The council said that displaying the English flag may have been seen as “racist” towards immigrants.
Half of Western European men descended from one Bronze Age ‘king’
2016-04-27 2:09
Half of Western European men are descended from one Bronze Age ‘king’ who sired a dynasty of elite nobles which spread throughout Europe, a new study has shown. The monarch, who lived around 4,000 years ago, is likely to have been one of the earliest chieftains to take power in the continent. He was part of a new order which emerged in ...
"Local Residents" Are Filmed Stealing Dozens of Bottles of Water at London Marathon Stop
2016-04-25 23:10
Editor's Comment: "Local" residents? Why bother blurring their faces? We know who they are. ... London marathon runners were robbed of dozens of bottled waters when thieves raided a refreshment area armed with trolleys during today's race. Nearby residents - including parents with children - were captured on camera piling up crates of free water handed out by volunteers during the 26-mile event. Marathon ...
More News »