Black sludge: Neighbour concerned about lack of response to leak on Whitehorse property

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Black sludge: Neighbour concerned about lack of response to leak on Whitehorse property

A Whitehorse property owner says his neighbour's yard is leaking black sludge that looks like oil or hydraulic fluid.

On Friday, Shahram Kazemi invited CBC North to come have a look. 

He dipped a finger into some of the oily substance. The fingertip emerged black and greasy. 

"It's getting worse and worse," he said.  

The property is on Lodgepole Lane, across from Centennial Street in Porter Creek. 

On April 7, a black substance could be seen steadily leaking into puddles on the muddy road. The liquid floated on top of water and was pooling around abandoned cars and barrels.

One barrel visible from the road was marked as containing hydraulic oil. 

Kazemi says his neighbour's property has been leaking a long time. The black runoff, he says, has been draining into a culvert along the Alaska Highway, which feeds into local streams.  

"How is oil going into the creek and into the river? That's not very nice," he said. 

Kazemi says he's talked to the City of Whitehorse but he's unhappy with the response.

So far, he says, the city's action has been to issue fines and wait — all while the leak continues. 

He has photos dating back to last April also showing black sludge on the ground.

Kazemi owns a vacant lot next door and says he's worried about contamination if he digs a well. 

"I have seen it and other residents of Porter Creek have come to see it and they are not happy," he said. "I have to talk to somebody to stop that kind of oil spill."

Charges pending, says City of Whitehorse

Tom Wyers, the City of Whitehorse's supervisor of bylaw services, says that the city is working with the owner to clean up the site, but progress has been slow.

On April 7, Wyers said city bylaw was planning on visiting the property within a few weeks, once the snow had cleared.

Asked about the sludge, Wyers said he was not aware of a spill and said he would go inspect the property himself later that day. 

"We had been working with that property owner in regards to cleaning up a great deal of accumulation that he has on his property. And that goes back several years. We have proceeded with enforcement. He has been fined a number of times."

The last fine under the city's maintenance bylaw was for $800, last September. The fine has not been paid.

The maintenance bylaw covers accumulation of material, such as old cars and barrels, but not spills 

Wyers says the next step is dividing the property into quarters and assigning deadlines for each section to be cleaned up. 

"Each quarter will be assigned a date of compliance," he said. "Failing to meet that compliance date will result in further court action and further fines." 

Kazemi doubts the fines and deadlines will work, adding his neighbour needs help, not punishment, to get the job done.

"He is trying to clean up, but the poor guy has so much to do he doesn't know what to do," he said. 

On April 7, it looked as though some sawdust had been shoveled onto the black liquid, which is a common technique for containing small spills. However, the liquid was still oozing into the muddy road. 

Kazemi thinks the city should help with cleanup to at least stop the immediate spill. 

"The city knows there's a lots of oil being spilled and lots of chemicals there," he says. "Somebody has to do something."

Kazemi has also called Environment Yukon. 

A department spokeswoman confirmed Environment Yukon received four complaints about the property stretching back to 2008. She says compliance officers took samples on April 7 and the department is waiting on the results.

CBC is trying to reach the property owner for comment.