Auditor general strikes gas
About two-thirds of the Transportation Department's 80 depots are contaminated.
There are inadequate controls over fuel use in the Transportation and Natural
There is insufficient analysis on buying new vehicles.
School boards need to work with district health authorities to ensure teaching
assistants have proper training for medical procedures they may have to
The government should provide better reports on the Industrial Expansion Fund.
Watchdog finds dozens of fuel-fouled Transportation Department sites
By DAVID JACKSON / Provincial Reporter
About two-thirds of the Transportation and Public Works Department's 80 depots
have some degree of environmental contamination that will cost millions to
clean up, Auditor General Roy Salmon revealed Wednesday.
Much of the contamination is from diesel fuel and gasoline. The province has
remediated 17 sites and another six will be in progress this year.
"If we call all these contaminated sites, I guess we've got a problem," Mr.
Salmon said after meeting with the legislature's public accounts committee.
The cost of cleaning each site varies. The cost in Port Hawkesbury was $471,000
over two years, while remediation to start this year in Welsford, Hillaton and
Doucetteville is estimated at $500,000 in total.
The cost of cleaning up the 17 sites done since 1996 was $4.3 million, or about
Mr. Salmon was also concerned that the department wasn't required to inform the
Environment Department about its contamination, which made it seem government
has different rules for itself than home and business owners.
"Inadequate information, inadequate policies, inadequate processes," Mr. Salmon
Environment Minister Kerry Morash later explained that government departments
and homeowners are treated the same when it comes to fuel spills.
Neither is required to report past contamination, and both are required to
report fuel spills of 100 litres or more.
The province is looking at amending the Environment Act to require reporting of
Transportation spokeswoman Linda Laffin said the contamination at the depots
generally came from years of use as industrial sites, where oil was regularly
changed and machinery fuelled up.
She said neighbours needn't worry about oil.
"There's no off-site contamination from these sites."
Liberal Michel Samson wasn't convinced.
"I think Nova Scotia homeowners that live close to a Department of
Transportation depot or Department of Natural Resources depot should be
extremely concerned," he said.
He said homeowners who have an oil tank leak seem to have to clean it up
immediately, not some time in the future.
"The fact that this has been allowed to go on with the departments basically
regulating themselves is completely unacceptable," he said.
Mr. Morash said Nova Scotians who live next to a depot and have a concern should
contact the Transportation Department.
"I'm not aware of any health hazard that's associated with one of these
contaminated sites to residents who live in the vicinity," he said.
Natural Resources Minister Richard Hurlburt, whose department also has about 80
depots where fuel is stored, said he's not aware of contamination problems at
any of those sites.
Mr. Salmon's report also noted many shortcomings in how the Transportation and
Natural Resources departments manage their fleets, which include everything
from pickup trucks to snowplows and helicopters. They have about 86 per cent of
the government fleet.
One of the auditor's concerns was a lack of planning around replacing vehicles.
There's no analysis of whether it's necessary to replace a vehicle for a
certain location or whether the money should be spent elsewhere, Mr. Salmon
There's also no way to tell for sure if employees may be gassing up their own
vehicles with a government credit card, although the auditor has had no
examples of that happening.
Mr. Salmon also said government employees authorized to use government vehicles
to travel to work aren't paying enough for that use.