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Too late to save Heyden gas station, says owner

Friday, May 09, 2014   by: Kenneth Armstrong

The owner of a closed service station says it's too late for the Technical Standards and Safety Authority to do anything to help her.

“It’s way too late for us. I don’t know about the other guys, but they’ve done a number on us,” said Laurie Lee who owns the now-closed Leeside Service Plus station in Heyden.

Earlier this week reported that regulations enforced by the TSSA have resulted in the closure of a number of small-town gas stations in Northern Ontario and that the TSSA is looking to apply additional flexibility for the station owners to become compliant.

Lee said she and her husband purchased the station in December of 2012, adding a restaurant along with the existing pumps and convenience store.

The couple, in their early-40’s, were looking forward to running the business until retirement and passing it down to their four children, she said.

Two days after taking ownership of the station it was visited by a TSSA inspector, and by her records it was the first inspection the station had received in seven years, said Lee.

“It was stacked against us from day one,” she said.

Initially, the TSSA had ordered work that totalled $5000, which was completed by the station owners, but the costs kept piling up, Lee said.

“Every time an inspector came out there we were getting crazy amounts of bills, and he would tell me just for him to sit here for 20 minutes was going to cost me $400,” said Lee.

She said the next upgrade ordered by the TSSA was going to cost $50,000 for underground piping, which was impossible to complete with frozen ground in the winter and the pumps were forced to close on January 15 of this year.

“I understand that maybe my site needs this work, but why shut me down in the middle of winter when I can’t fix it?” said Lee.

Lee noted that the previous work revealed that there were no environmental concerns with the site.

Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha has said that in every case that he knows of the business owners have wanted to be compliant, but either the timeline for repairs was too short or the cost too high for a small business owner.

Without the pumps running, the store and restaurant in Heyden couldn’t survive and the entire business closed and is now for sale, said Lee.

“The little guy can’t fight the government, we know that now. We looked into a lawyer (but) we couldn’t find one in the Sault that would represent us to fight them,” said Lee.

Living out in Heyden, she said every time she would drive into the Sault she would pass by the now-closed station.

“That has been difficult,” said Lee.

(FIle Photo)

Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
neskantaga 5/9/2014 2:08:37 PM Report

another example of bureaucrats gone amok no common sense no empathy
B Boy 5/9/2014 2:11:04 PM Report

All across Ontario the TSSA is issuing unreasonable and unrealistic orders with impossible timelines.

fcubed 5/9/2014 2:21:08 PM Report

Pardon me. In Harper land mere bureaucrats follow the Master's guidance.

harry dick 5/9/2014 2:26:19 PM Report

This is another case of the government stating that job cuts are imminent with-in the government employees . The employees now are coming out of the woodwork to try and show that their job is important. You haven't seen or heard of these people or their jobs for years , but as soon as job cuts loom they make themselves visable to the people. It is like when I was stopped at the Canadian side of the border in Sault Ste Marie a year ago by a government employee telling me that I need papers for my dog to get across the border .I have been crossing the border for 40 years and have never been stopped for not having papers for my dog . After that they were never seen again at the border . Job cuts o'h no , we better do some work to show that we are doing our job.
scottstewy123 5/9/2014 2:40:58 PM Report

The TSSA is provincial . Harper is Federal.
scottstewy123 5/9/2014 2:43:12 PM Report

I am so sorry for the loss of there business. June 12th we need change in Toronto.
mosquitos 5/9/2014 2:50:42 PM Report

Just to correct people that don't know, TSSA is enforcing Ontario government law. More red-tape for Ontario business. Keep voting for Liberals and dippers and we'll all be in caves soon. Political correctness and over regulation. Don't blame Harper for the province's debacles. Vote Hudak for some common sense and maybe we can get jobs!
Budster 5/9/2014 2:53:03 PM Report

This is proof that the gov't does not want mom and pop stores any where but in the GTA. For every so called job created they pull a stunt like this that kills at least 2 or more jobs. Since they are the ones paying for the studies they will always show whatever the payee wants it to say. Totally disgusted by the lack of integrity in Gov't. No politician want people living in N. O. Just sell resources to foreigners and multi-nationals and keep the kick backs for themselves never investing in it's own people just outsiders and themselves.
Auntiej 5/9/2014 2:53:44 PM Report

a provincial gov. is not going to change this story. TSSA is a joint federal and provincial regulatory body.
Slim Shady 5/9/2014 2:57:47 PM Report

@ neskantaga

“…another example of bureaucrats gone amok no common sense no empathy…”

@ B Boy

“…All across Ontario the TSSA is issuing unreasonable and unrealistic orders with impossible timelines…”

Guys, there are regulatory bodies for a reason. Gas stations dispense flammable, explosive and toxic fuel. Environmental catastrophes such as leaking fuel tanks (former Esso on Bruce Street) or explosions like the 2008 explosion of Sunrise Propane in Toronto that leveled about a kilometer of area destroying over 100 homes and affecting 12,000 others are reasons why regulation is needed.

I do believe that costs of fuel dispensing (station tanks, pumps, TSSA orders, etc.) should be borne by the Fuel distributor (like Esso, Shell, etc.) not the store owner. The costs of this should be distributed in the cost of the fuel at the pumps. The infrastructure and its maintenance should be amortized over the life of the gas retail outlet.

People complain about government inspections and regulations; however they are designed to protect your safety and/or quality of life. I for one would not want my well contaminated or my house destroyed by an explosion because some poor Store Owner can’t afford to replace their tanks or maintain their facility.

As for timing and letting a station remain open….. If the hazard exists such as leaking tanks, a lot of damage can occur by not shutting down right away. Look at the former Bruce Street Esso, a 30 foot deep crater taking up almost the entire site had to be hauled away and decontaminated.
Mr. Poster 5/9/2014 3:03:21 PM Report

I WONDER IF MacDougal fuels could be behind this. They have a monopoly on most of the gas stations in our area. Was this little venture at Heyden too much competition for MacDougals??
mosquitos 5/9/2014 3:03:27 PM Report

TSSA is enforcing Ontario laws AuntieJ. Pin it on the Libs, sorry.
brittz 5/9/2014 3:03:54 PM Report

@ Slim: The Esso was approached in this case to help cover the costs, however they refused, and opted to take their company name out. Local companies like McDougall and Wardlaw also refuse small business owners because of the volume of sales... its all about the almighty dollar. Small town stations are obviously not making milions for the bottom line, but they do provide a service, and local employment to the communities they are in. Shame on the TSSA for not doing timely and appropriate inspections.
B Boy 5/9/2014 3:06:53 PM Report

@slim shady - I agree with you and I never said this shouldn't be happening. The issue I have is the "sudden" urgency. What have these inspectors & the TSSA been doing all these years?
Some of these places have remained mostly unchanged for years and suddenly they're all deemed dangerous.
Why no timeline for compliance?
Why no notices to comply?
Why no strategic planning in stages or standards so people who want to comply can?
Will this blitz continue or will they simply forget about things again for a while?

Sam C 5/9/2014 3:08:07 PM Report

I'm puzzled by the "fee" the inspector charges for a visit. This is not the first time I have heard of people complaining about the inspector assessing a $300-400 fee for an inspection.

I'm curious as to whether this is normal practice?
Mr. Poster 5/9/2014 3:11:07 PM Report

Sam is right...would not the visit to these gas stations be part of his job...for which he is already being paid a salary ??
B Boy 5/9/2014 3:19:31 PM Report

That would be like the Ministry of Labour charging a fee for a workplace inspection or the police charging a fee at a RIDE check.
johnnyc 5/9/2014 3:27:04 PM Report

Vote Hudak for some common sense and maybe we can get jobs!----

yeah okay... cutting 100'000 jobs is his plan
JUSTANOTHERNAME 5/9/2014 3:28:21 PM Report

Many of the TSSA regulations just recently changed. Making those with stations who were compliant even within the last 5 years no longer compliant. Every single marina gas station from Thunder Bay to Wawa was shut down last summer by TSSA. The Red Rock Marina outside of Nipigon had just been completely rebuilt 3 years prior and completely met TSSA standards at that time, had a bill over $50,000 in changes the TSSA wanted last summer. The problem is that many of the stations have no idea what these changes are and local contractors are not acceptable in making the changes for them. Waiting times to get them from Southern Ontario can be up to a year. Even the new Husky has had to make upgrades and it was just built.
Right of Centre 5/9/2014 3:46:32 PM Report

Interesting. As of May1, 2014, TSSA now has an ombudsman.

What does that tell you?
liam 5/9/2014 3:52:17 PM Report

When you purchase a car you need a safety certification. Would it not make sense to have a successful TSSA inspection mandatory before the sale of a fuel station to avoid this.
Would the previous owner not be partially responsible? Just saying...
JUSTANOTHERNAME 5/9/2014 3:59:08 PM Report

liam how would the previous owner be responsible when their last inspection was compliant? All gas stations used to have a test done on their tanks every 3 years that Lajoie brothers were able to do. This test is no longer acceptable and the test in place now has to be done by another company that is not local. The regulations changed, in many cases the owners thought they were compliant and are only finding out now that they aren't.
Louis 5/9/2014 4:12:31 PM Report

Of course it is important to make sure gas stations are safe, however, it is not at all reasonable to expect a brand spanking new business owner to have the ability to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in upgrades within days of opening the doors!! And even less reasonable to make an extension until the ground is thawed to complete the work! We all know gas is not a big money maker for small businesses, but it does draw customers, and with the North Husky closing, it would have given this couple a good fighting chance to have a successful business! I really feel for this family, it truly is a SHAME, they never even had a chance!
Gater 5/9/2014 4:16:48 PM Report

I am told one of the issues these stations have to comply with is .

The removal of the check valves on the lines in the tank feeding the pumps.

This I am told is so there is no fuel in the lines when they are not pumping...
With that said with no fuel in the lines would there not be a condensation issue then???
6 fan 5/9/2014 4:19:05 PM Report

You think voting for hudak is going to fix anything the guys a moron , Tssa is there to protect our interests , out of control maybe but needs to be there , changing govt will not change one thing , how to fix this I'm not sure but hudak is not the answer
ThinkAgain 5/9/2014 4:23:46 PM Report

hmmm, when I buy a house I get a home inspection prior to any financial obligation.

Maybe a poor investment decision
RonBes 5/9/2014 4:59:34 PM Report

Hudak is not going to fix this or anything else for this province. He's putting 100 THOUSAND people out of work and onto EI. How do you think that will affect our economy?

He is there to do one thing and one thing only: make life easier for Big Business. Those jobs he is slashing are probably going toward paying for tax cuts for corporations and rich folks that the little guy is going to have to make up for.

Give your heads a collective shake.
CTgasman 5/9/2014 5:06:13 PM Report

As a fellow business owner, I am really sorry this happened to you.

The TSSA can be a pain, but they are there for a reason, and just enforcing the rules.

2 words... DUE DILIGENCE !
Auntiej 5/9/2014 6:22:16 PM Report

mosquitos, I googled it and it said both federal and provincial!!!!
S.Claus 5/9/2014 6:42:42 PM Report

I really feel sorry for this couple. Trying to make a living with the present Liberal Government.

Just another example of the Liberals job loss record. Over 300,000 jobs lost since 2003. Couple that with absolutely SINFUL deficits, sky rocketing energy prices.

The Liberals certainly cannot run on their record - - - perhaps try to run away from it. The best predictor of future behaviour is past practices.

Time for a change BIG TIME. Unfortunately, with 11 years in power they get to retire with a full pension for their incompetence.
SimsDrum 5/9/2014 6:53:59 PM Report

Who are these TSSA inspectors anyway? I have heard many stories of comments like "Its costing you 400 for me to sit here" These guys have some sort of douchebag chip on their shoulder and I am not sure why. I think they have a little too much power perhaps
cass grad 5/9/2014 7:18:43 PM Report

This may answer some ?
Since 1997, the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) has delivered public safety services on behalf of the government of Ontario in four key sectors:

• boilers and pressure vessels, and operating engineers;
• elevating devices, amusement devices and ski lifts;
• fuels; and,
• upholstered and stuffed articles.

TSSA is a not-for-profit, self-funded organization dedicated to enhancing public safety. With headquarters in Toronto, TSSA employs approximately 380 staff, 70 percent of whom work in operations. Governed by a 13-member board of directors, TSSA is accountable to the Ontario government, the residents of Ontario and its other stakeholders.

TSSA funds its operations by charging its industry customers a fee for the services it provides. - See more at:
cass grad 5/9/2014 7:48:01 PM Report

Just to clarify I am not a TSSA lover . I do believe we need inspections and rules .
I personally know that two of the stations spent thousands of dollars on inspections , testing and equipment upgrades in the last year or so only to be told that one more test needed to be completed ASAP . No companies in the north are certified to do this test and the companies in the south that are , are booked months in advance . The cost of bring these companies in and doing the test is also very expensive .

On another note when government talks about BIG business . They are usually referring to corporations . Many small mom and pop businesses are registered corporations just like the RBC s and Algoma Steels of the province .
jonesur 5/9/2014 9:45:14 PM Report

I am so surprised to see that Sootoday hasn't splashed their site with a photo-op story of Mr. Precious(David O) standing up to support this business..........silly me, I forgot. They're taxpayers, not takers waiting for their entitlement cheque, with the promise of an X beside his name!
duck hunter 5/9/2014 9:50:00 PM Report

just another reason why we should be separated from southern ontario they have no idea of frost going seven feet into the ground nor do they respect the peoples of the norths views just like we should not hunt bears well a lot of good people lost everything because of some animal lovers who would be the first to buy a nice pair of leather shoes no feelings for the cow's though shame on our majority of northern politians for not backing there people I guess we only matter when we mark the X
Gentleman 5/9/2014 9:59:52 PM Report

The Liberal government knew about TSSA issues way back in 2011 and turned a blind eye at Queen's park as the complaints started coming in about TSSA arrogance and their monoply approach to bilking small business owners. The Fiberals have been so busy combatting controversy that the TSSA issues went on the backburner. Now its election time and someone in government picked up the phone to TSSA and said loosen up a bit (until the elction is over).
Faith 5/9/2014 10:29:08 PM Report

It all started with Harris privatization. It's wrong that a small business taxpayer, of a previously compliant business is sunk by an ignorant system. It should never have happened. TSSA is broken.
soos 5/9/2014 11:45:21 PM Report

What is sad is a big corparation like Macs will come in and steel this place from this couple. Then put their pumps and store in. I drive for a living and this is happening all over. Government kicks you down corparations rob you blind.
soos 5/9/2014 11:46:54 PM Report

What is sad is a big corparation like Macs will come in and steel this place from this couple. Then put their pumps and store in. I drive for a living and this is happening all over. Government kicks you down corparations rob you blind.
Zap 5/10/2014 12:02:11 AM Report

Big business owns the corporation of Canada knocking out the competition.
so-kendra 5/10/2014 7:14:29 AM Report

my thoughts go out to this poor family....
yes it is unfortunate that they had to close. And yes the TSSA is broke. But whats really broke is our government.
Do not vote for Hudak he'll screw this province up even more than the Liberals did. And the PC government is there for the rich and also for them to get richer and to allow more foriegn ppl in our country to do our work for cheaper... they want to screw the actual canadian born ppl here out of jobs. Also TAXS the shit out of us. dont we pay enough in taxes already??? so pplz do not vote for PC or LIBERALS
Twistinwrenches 5/10/2014 7:46:16 AM Report

Has anyone noticed their hydro bill. The Liberals are not for lower income people for sure!!!
Poncho55 5/10/2014 9:34:42 AM Report

Just another example of government pushing around the people they are asked to represent! This has to change!
Faith 5/10/2014 10:04:22 AM Report

well lets go back to Mulroney. PC's national/international policies starting with free trade have gutted what used to be the strength of Canada.PC's have put Canada in a position to be too dependent on TAR SANDS development for economic strength. I voted PC last federal election feeling that they were getting a majority and thinking that a local rep would be good. Haven't seen a whole lot of good from feds locally though. For provincial election, my pick of poison will be Liberal. PC's don't care about real people, they think business will carry the economy. Business is for business. We need people to carry the economy.
ti-guy 5/10/2014 10:27:51 AM Report

There are no lawyers here in the Sault that will do anything until they are paid up front! I've experienced it and it's all the old cliches that you hear about lawyers...and it's not like in the States where 'they get paid when you get paid'.
RocknRoll 5/10/2014 4:23:11 PM Report

Just pay the bribe and all is OK, didn't you get the hint, they find something small, then they keep coming back hopefully to get paid off, if you dont well ya, they will shut you down. Look at our economy, everything is from overseas, were becoming a 3rd world economy where bribes are making its way back.
1-elvis 5/12/2014 9:15:16 AM Report

This makes me sick!! are Goverment this is to much.

We want to work and we can't .

It is the same in the city. With the zoneing.

You cant start a business unless you know some one that has pull or your rich.

Are City is dyeing a slow sad death.

Now are newspaper has left the City.

Now are children are leaving the city. There is no work!!!! for them...

No one helps no one! it is power!!!!!!

So go on goverment asisstance or city..
so sad.

I feel for you Mr & Mrs Lee your dream's down the drain.

Dream steeler's that is what they are ..

What have we become . law's law's law's
it's all about power laws and $$$$$$.....not about family's.
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