May 19, 2000—Chevron Canada's decision to shut down its service station on Bowen Island—the only facility on the island of 3,000 people to pump non-diesel gasoline-has not only incensed the population but has also raised fears about the safety of carrying large volumes of gas in canisters aboard the BC ferry vessel serving Bowen.
Ferry CURE, the grassroots coalition of Bowen Island ferry users, reports that although the closure is scheduled for the end of June, some islanders are now stockpiling gasoline. And on Friday the BC Ferry Corporation began asking motorists if they are carrying more than the single gas can they are allowed to have in their vehicles (foot passengers are not allowed to bring any gasoline aboard).
“The timing of Chevron's decision is unfortunate,” says Bert Paul, a Ferry CURE director. “A company spokesperson told us they have shut down many gas stations throughout the province without a problem. What they don't seem to understand is that closing one at 41st and Granville in Vancouver is not the same as shutting down the only station on an island far from the nearest gasoline supply. And the other reality they've ignored is that many of our vehicles never leave Bowen.”
Federal regulations state that on regular ferry sailings cars, trucks, campers, motorhomes, recreational-type vehicles, and trailers used for pleasure may carry only one spare tank or container, full or empty, up to a 25-litre capacity. That limit-about five gallons-is much less than required to fill the average car's gas tank. The containers must be positioned upright and lodged in a way that they will not tip over-if necessary, by being tied down.
Fred Haywood, the Corporation's manager of dangerous goods, told Ferry CURE that ferry workers on the Horseshoe Bay-Bowen route will continue the new policy of asking each vehicle operator if he or she has any gas containers aboard. If the workers suspect a motorist is carrying more than one container, either the police or a Motor Vehicle Branch official can be called in to search the vehicle. The fines for a first offence in not complying with the regulations can range up to a staggering $50,000; fines for further offences can reach a total of $1 million.
“One in four commercial vehicles contravene the Dangerous Goods Act,” Mr. Haywood said, and he believes the same is true for private vehicles. He estimates that perhaps 25% of residents will attempt to contravene the Act's regulations.
Chevron has sold the service station and its site to a Bowen resident. Company spokesmen say the purchaser intends to reopen it after Chevron completes environmental site-remediation work that will take several weeks to complete-including the removal of two steel underground gas-storage tanks that have reached their environmental limits.
The company has told Ferry CURE that because the deal has already closed, it cannot delay the remediation work to service the community throughout the summer months when weekend gasoline consumption in particular increases dramatically.
If the station does reopen, it will be supplied by a company other than Chevron. The American-based oil giant-which saw a tripling of its net earnings to $1.044 billion in the first quarter of this year-claims that the operation of the station on Bowen is too uneconomic to continue.
Ferry CURE has suggested to Chevron that it delay the site-remediation work until October, which would allow gas to be supplied from the single fibreglass tank at the station that still meets environmental-safety standards. The delay would allow time for council, in collaboration with the new owner and B.C. Ministry of Environment officials, to establish a temporary surface facility until the steel tanks have been removed, the site is cleaned, and a clearance certificate has been issued.
“We believe that Chevron has a social responsibility to provide a short-term solution to this problem,” Bert Paul says.
Page last updated 00-05-20