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Cleaning up spoiled soils from the past

Dave Muddle can finally have his day in ridding his property of its hidden past.
Work crews dig out the old gas tanks last week at Innisfail 2020 Auto Service.
Work crews dig out the old gas tanks last week at Innisfail 2020 Auto Service.

Dave Muddle can finally have his day in ridding his property of its hidden past.

In doing so, it will finally clear the way for John Schneider, owner of Innisfail 2020 Auto Service, to purchase the three-lot site and building for the business he bought six years ago.

Last week, excavation crews were at the site in the front of the building to dig an old gas tank that had been sealed up for years. However, there was a big surprise. Muddle and Schneider expected work crews to find just one old tank. They found four, a mix of 1,500- and 500-gallon underground tanks.

“It was a surprise. It shouldn't hold up the work that much but we do have to see how far the tanks go across the lot,” said Muddle.

Muddle bought the property with his wife Mary in 1990. The land was reportedly once the site for a pioneer livery, an auto dealership and a used car lot.

He knew at the time it was once a site for old gas tanks, possibly as far back as the 1940s, but did not know it was a problem until the mid-1990s when the provincial government let it be known it wanted all sites that are potentially contaminated from old gas tanks cleaned up.

“I guess I didn't realize it was a problem until 1994 or 1995,” said Muddle. “Alberta Environment wants all these sites cleaned up. If I didn't do it they said they wouldn't come after me but in the future they might.”

But the provincial government ministry did create a cost-sharing cleanup program for such sites as the one Muddle owns. However, it took 10 years for Muddle to qualify and now the work is finally being done.

“I am happy the funding has been put into an account for me and not to be taken away,” said Muddle, who estimates the final cost to be in the “thousands.

“It is massive costs,” he said of the work, “We are going to clean it up, take the tank out and refill it. The contaminated soil will be cleaned and put back in the hole.”

The cleanup of the site, which is expected to take two weeks, will enable Muddle to finally sell the land and building.

“You can't sell these sites because banks won't finance something that is contaminated,” said Muddle. “But the most important thing is that Alberta Environment wants these sites cleaned. What we are trying to do is to have this done quickly so it doesn't disturb business.”

This is all good news for Schneider, who apprenticed under Muddle until buying the business in 2007. He has been patiently waiting for the cleanup job to finally move forward.

“It has to happen for me to buy the building,” said Schneider, adding there will be some inconvenience for his business. “We are not going to have access from the front. Three bays will be shut down. We will have to operate out of the back.”

As for Muddle, the cleanup will be one of the last responsibilities he has to make right in the town he has grown to love.

“The town has been wonderful for me,” said Muddle, who moved to Pine Lake in 2000. “I am very thankful.”

Johnnie Bachusky

About the Author: Johnnie Bachusky

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