Homeowners on Coleman Place in Colwood are pleading for action, claiming that blasting in the area has damaged their homes.
With several development projects continuing in the area, blasting has been an ongoing occurrence in the area for some time, but residents of the quiet hillside neighbourhood near the intersection of Latoria Road and Veterans Memorial Parkway say it has become more frequent and intense in recent months.
“I’m a helicopter mechanic, I’m used to vibrations. I was actually downstairs on a concrete floor and I couldn’t believe how bad the vibration was,” said resident Stewart Rurka. “It’s like a continuous earthquake.”
Cracks in walls and concrete floors, as well as damage to exterior door frames and pillars are visible at his home as well as that of neighbour Sue Courey.
“These things have all just come up,” Courey said, adding that other residents in the area have complained as well. “This is just indicative of what’s going on.”
Courey and Janice Rurka (Stewart’s wife) have canvassed the area to see if their neighbours have similar complaints. They received e-mails from other Coleman Place residents who are disgruntled.
“The effect of blasting have (sic) been detrimental to our household and has caused damage to our home,” wrote one resident, citing cracks in the plaster on the home’s entryway.
“As a shift worker, it is very challenging to sleep when the blasts occur which have been between 5-10/day lately,” wrote another. “Not only are the blasts loud but they completely shake our home and belongings. It is only a matter of time until we have structural defects caused by the aggressive blasts. We often feel as if we are living in a war zone.”
The homes in the community are less than five years old.
Multiple blasting companies are operating in the area and it is unclear which may have been the source of the damage.
The Gazette spoke with representatives of two companies that had given Coleman Place residents pre-notice of blasting activities nearby. One said they had not worked in the area in the past month, while the other noted the difficulties in pinpointing the cause of damage to homes.
Courey’s complaints, as well as the e-mails she has received from her neighbours, were forwarded to the City of Colwood in an e-mail on Sept. 28.
“I feel for the folks in that area because the blasting thing has been ongoing and not just a matter of days, weeks or months even, but over the course of years,” said Mayor Carol Hamilton.
Earlier in September, Coun. Rob Martin and chief administrative officer Ian Howat toured the residences of Courey and Rurka after their initial complaints.
“You definitely see damage in their house … but I certainly wouldn’t want to be in a position to suggest what caused it,” Martin said.
The City has a bylaw which states that anyone wishing to engage in blasting operations much first secure a permit with the municipal engineer. Operations must fully comply with conditions in the bylaw.
Conditions found within blasting permits include the holder’s authorization to release the City against all claims, suits, demands and costs associated with injuries to people or property in the event of negligence from the holder.
Conditions also apply to explosives that are detonated within 60 metres of any type of structure. In this instance, the holder must retain an independent insurance adjuster to complete a pre-blast survey.
The municipal engineer is also given authority to revoke blasting permits at their discretion. Prohibitions are also placed on engaging in blasting without covering the blast with blasting mats or clean rock-free fill or sand.
According to City communications manager Sandra Russell, once permits are issued municipalities rely on Worksafe BC to oversee blasting, and that organization is responsible for issuing blasting tickets and ensuring safe practices.
Residents are encouraged to take their concerns to the blasting company. Both Courey and Janice Rurka, Stewart’s husband, have been in touch with two companies that are believed to be operating in the area.
The City’s director of engineering, Michael Baxter, is planning to bring a report to council in November to review the blasting permit process.
In the meantime, the frustration continues to build. “We’re taxpayers. We pay city taxes and the city knows that there’s these issues, why are they continuing to give them blasting permits?” Stewart said.