Imperial Oil shown the door in dispute with couple over contaminated land by Marty Klinkenberg, August 23, 2013, Edmonton Journal
Imperial Oil has failed in its first attempt to resolve a long-standing dispute with an Edmonton couple who wants the company to clean up the mess they say the oil and gas giant has left on their century-old farm. Continuing a battle his late mother started 20 years ago, Rick Bilozer and his wife, Barb, met in their home with Imperial officials on Thursday and essentially showed them the door when the company would not commit to remediating a five-acre parcel of land that has been set afire, soiled by a pipeline spill, and filled with contaminated concrete drilling pads and other materials over the years. The company has asked the Bilozers for access to their property between Devon and Calmar so an environmental assessment can be conducted. The couple refuses unless Imperial agrees to clean up the field, beside which it previously installed two drilling platforms on land leased from Bilozer’s mother, Natala.
In 1993 the company received permission from health officials to fill in the field, which had collapsed after a fire and then flooded and turned into a swamp, with concrete and other clean materials. The Bilozers demanded it be dug up after learning other debris, including concrete slabs covered with oil, steel cables, newspapers, plastic bags and lengths of pipe had been buried there beneath the ground. Tests show contamination spreading from the site to groundwater and adjacent soil. “We told them not to come back for another meeting if they’re not willing to address the waste materials,” Barb Bilozer said Thursday. “We told them they give us no choice but to file a lawsuit.”
Alberta environment officials have directed the company to clean up the site three times since 2005 but say they will not intervene as long as Imperial is taking steps in that direction. In a documents officials left with the couple on Thursday the company expressed willingness to work with the landowners and said no doors are closed. It offered to have its lawyers meet with the Bilozers’ lawyers, but stated that it wants to avoid a lawsuit. David Wolsey, a lawyer with the Edmonton firm Snyder and Associates, said he has been instructed by the Bilozers to file a lawsuit as soon as next week if the company doesn’t change its position. At this point, the only other remedy available is if Imperial offers to buy the Bilozers’ 160-acre farm. It was appraised last year, as is, for approximately $1.55 million. “I think at the end of the day they have to address the contamination of the property or come up with a pretty reasonable pitch to buy out the land,” Wolsey said. “Assuming that this lawsuit is filed we are looking at millions in damages. It is going to be a very large lawsuit.” [Emphasis added]
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