one hell of a mess

It's too bad developers can't use the Hamilton Boulevard tank farm for a residential development. The site is almost perfect for houses. It's close to existing infrastructure.

It’s too bad developers can’t use the Hamilton Boulevard tank farm for a residential development.

The site is almost perfect for houses.

It’s close to existing infrastructure. It’s within walking distance to downtown.

And, because it’s on a rise of land, it offers spectacular views of the local mountains.

The site, bordered by Valleyview, Hillcrest and the Alaska Highway could have accommodated more than 350 homes, which would have gone a long way to meeting the city’s future lot demand.

Unfortunately, plans to build a new subdivision on the site have been abandoned.

The place is simply too polluted for human habitation. This, despite years of reclamation work on the site.

Now wooded, the site was once home to 24 steel oil tanks, each holding 1,600 cubic metres of petroleum. Over the years, oil from those tanks sloshed onto the ground.

Yukon Pipeline Ltd. has dug up enough soil to fill 125 dump trucks. It has treated another 250 trucks worth of soil.

And now it’s throwing in the towel.

Petroleum vapour rising out of the still-polluted ground is too strong to allow people to live on the site.

So the company abandoned its site-recovery plans.

Now, the land will be zoned to a less stringent, industrial standard.

We live in a petroleum age. The stuff is a marvel.

But it is also incredibly toxic.

So much so, that accumulated spillage on a small storage site has killed a $120-million housing development less than two kilometres from the city core.

And that estimate of economic benefits is just the cost of the homes, never mind the paving, landscaping and other infrastructure costs associated with such a development. Or the savings of such a development offered the city over the comparatively isolated Whistle Bend development.

Given all that, it’s incredible it’s not economically feasible to clean the site to allow people to live there.

And water from the site flows into the Yukon River, so that will also have to be monitored for possible danger for years to come.

It drives home what a persistent mess oil can create.

And this is a relatively tiny mess—pinprick-sized, really—in comparison to Alberta.

Syncrude and other oil companies are steaming petroleum out of the tarsands, creating huge swaths of desolation in the province.

The Alberta government says it is serious about ensuring cleanup of pollution from runaway petroleum production in the region.

That’s quite a claim.

There are about 720 billion litres of toxic tailings from the petroleum industry covering about 130 square kilometres of Alberta.

In comparison, the Whitehorse tank farm is only 53 hectares. And there are 100 hectares in a square kilometre … do the math.

Then remember that oil currently costs less than $50 a barrel.

Does that cover the real cost - of extraction, production and the environmental costs, including land reclamation and atmospheric pollution?

Something to remember the next time you’re grousing about $1.10-a-litre gas as you drive your SUV from Whistle Bend to your free government parking spot downtown. (Richard Mostyn)