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UPDATE: Delta Mayor calls for review into Fortis gas leak

FortisBC issues apology after mayor pens scathing letter to energy company.
Delta Mayor George Harvie
Mayor George Harvie is asking for a full review into the response from FortisBC and a gas leak in South Delta on Tuesday, Jan. 16.

Editor's note: This story was updated on Jan. 18 following the release of a revised statement from FortisBC.

The response was unacceptable.

That’s how Mayor George Harvie is describing the situation concerning FortisBC on Tuesday following reports of a gas odour that permeated throughout Delta, into Richmond and even into parts of Vancouver.

“It is unacceptable that Delta residents and businesses were left in the dark about a very serious gas odour that spread throughout Delta. It took FortisBC over four hours after initial reports before they made a public statement,” said Harvie. “Delta Police and Delta Fire were bombarded with calls about the odour and Delta Fire crews attended to each of these calls to ensure there was no on-site gas leak. The failure of Fortis BC to communicate this gas odour leak had a serious impact on our emergency services whose resources should be dedicated to real emergencies.”

FortisBC says their crews responded to reports of gas odour at the FortisBC Interconnect Station in Ladner and were on site at approximately 12:30 p.m. (Jan. 16) to investigate.

“As work was being performed on new equipment at the FortisBC Interconnect Station in Ladner, there was a controlled release of gas, not a leak as initially believed,” said FortisBC who issued a revised statement to the Optimist in the afternoon of Jan. 18. “While this was part of planned work, the release contained an elevated level of an odourant, which caused a strong smell in the surrounding communities. The strong smell was unexpected and, as a result, no communications on this activity were planned. We realize the residual odour was very strong in some areas, but it is expected to dissipate. Further investigation is needed to determine why there was excess odourant.”

But Harvie called the delayed notification to residents – more than four hours – an “egregious oversight by FortisBC.”

“The stress and panic that this incident caused to both the public and our first responders was completely unnecessary,” said Harvie. “That is why I have asked our city manager to conduct a full review into what caused the gas odour leak and why it took over four hours for FortisBC to inform anyone about it. FortisBC must be accountable for their delay in response causing confusion and alarm in our community.”

In a further response to more inquires from the Optimist, Fortis said the company has been in contact with local First Nations, municipal and emergency officials to provide information on their response.

“Public and employee safety is our top priority. We apologize for the disruption and concern that this may cause residents and commuters in the area.”

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