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Quesnel gas station leaks as much as 110,000 litres of fuel over a year, contaminates groundwater

Land, water and air being tested around Lhtako Gas & Convenience
In December of 2020, this tank was one of the new fuel storage units installed at Lhtako Gas & Convenience. The Lhtako Dene Nation, owners of the store, now say the installation caused a fuel leak underground. (Lhtako Gas & Convenience photo on Facebook)

Fuel leaked for more than a year at a local service station, underground and undetected. A contamination investigation is underway, but some adjacent properties are known to be affected.

The Lhtako Gas & Convenience Store at 1535 Arbutus Road was the affected site.

“An estimated 110,000 litres of gasoline may have leaked from the underground fuel line over a period of approximately 18 months,” said a statement issued Tuesday by the Lhtako Dene Nation (LDN), owners of the facility. “Lhtako Dene Nation discovered an underground fuel leak at Lhtako Gas & Convenience Store. The leak occurred during installation of new fuel storage tanks in December 2020, but was not discovered until June 2022. The leak has been repaired.”

Since then, said the statement, testing has been going on to determine the extent of the underground damage, and what it might have done to groundwater.

SLR Consulting (Canada) Ltd. has been contracted “as experts in conducting environmental, human health assessment and remediation work programs.”

LDN said that a number of steps were underway to learn what needs to be done and how to fix it. A systematic program of tests has been done already on potentially affected soil, soil vapour, and water “to determine where the leaked fuel may have flowed to and the level of contamination.”

Some places around the fuel site may be unaffected, but “SLR recently confirmed that gasoline-related contamination is present in groundwater in Arbutus Road.”

Therefore, tap water sampling has been done at properties between Lust Road and Basalt Avenue and between Arbutus Road and Jade Street.

“The Lhtako Dene Nation community water supply has been tested and does not appear to be contaminated,” said the LDN statement.

Based on initial tap water sampling results, three properties in the vicinity of the Lhtako Gas & Convenience Store have been affected by the fuel release.

”The vast majority of initial water sampling results have indicated there are no detectable concentrations of fuel related chemicals in residential wells.”

The people at the three affected properties are being worked with to accommodate their water needs, any alternate housing that may be required, and more.

Indoor air quality test canisters will be distributed to some of the affected properties in the area.

“This is the data collection phase and as an understanding of the scale and scope of the area affected by the leak is delineated, a mitigation plan will be updated and implemented,” the statement said.

Lhtako Dene Nation are, LDN said, working closely with the First Nations Health Authority, Northern Health, Indigenous Services Canada, the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy and SLR Consulting (Canada) Ltd. to complete a comprehensive environmental investigation at the gas station and adjacent lands.

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