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Safety authority responds to gas station closure story

Monday, May 12, 2014   by: SooToday.com Staff
SooToday.com has received the following letter to the editor from Technical Standards and Safety Authority Director of Fuels Safety Program John Marshall,  in response to a story published last week.
 
*************************
To the Editor:
 
Last week’s article “Too late to save Heyden gas station, says owner” provided a very lop-sided version of events that led to the closing of the Leeside Service Plus gas station in Heyden. 
 
The article left the unfortunate impression that the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) acted in an unreasonable manner by issuing orders that abruptly forced the station to close in the middle of the winter when upgrades to the facility couldn’t be completed. 
 
TSSA has worked with the owners of Leeside Service Plus for well over a year, being flexible and reasonable in order to allow them to bring the gas station into compliance with Ontario’s safety regulations, which protect the public and workers, as well as the environment.
 
The station underwent a routine inspection following a change in ownership in December 2012.
 
A number of orders were issued with 90 days given to comply by March 2013.  
 
When the owners requested additional time to comply, TSSA responded positively by extending compliance times first to April 2013 and then to July 2013. 
 
Based on the owners ongoing efforts to follow the safety rules, TSSA again extended compliance times, this time to January 2014.
 
TSSA’s preferred approach is to work with owners to get their facilities into compliance.
 
TSSA is sensitive to the challenges of operating a small business in northern Ontario and applies a high degree of flexibility to take into consideration the long winters and the shortage of fuel contractors in remote communities.
 
TSSA inspectors live in the communities in which they work and so know first-hand the unique conditions in northern Ontario.
 
In this instance, TSSA provided a full year for the owners to do the necessary upgrades of the gas station to be compliant with Ontario’s safety laws.
 
In January 2014 the owners of Leeside Service Plus advised TSSA that they would not be able to complete the necessary upgrades of the facility and that they intended to cease operations.
 
At that time, 13 months after the safety orders were first issued, TSSA ordered a shutdown of the facility to ensure both public and environmental safety. 
 
The owners of Leeside Service Plus have clearly gone through difficult times and while TSSA is sympathetic, when a gas station owner is unable or unwilling to come into compliance, TSSA has little choice but to enforce Ontario’s safety laws.
 
Owning and operating a gas station comes with many challenges and responsibilities and as Ontario’s public safety regulator, we can help.
 
Just call us and we’ll explain the regulatory requirements and provide an inspection history of the facility to help in the decision process.
 
John Marshall
Director, Fuels Safety Program
 
**************************
Comments
35
Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of SooToday.com. If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
swirlbird20 5/12/2014 9:09:43 PM Report

Glad SooToday put this story up. I to feel sorry for the couple who had to close down because of the costs involved with doing the necessary upgrades but this organization and its workers are only doing there job, looking out for our safety and the environment. I doubt very much they look forward to seing small business owners struggle in an already big business world! By the sounds of this they gave plenty of time and extensions to try and help. I hope someone can meet the standards and re open the outlet soon, it was convenient to many in the area as well as travellers passing through! HIGH safety standards in every industry and line of work are just the way things are now... cost of business is huge!
Poncho55 5/12/2014 9:18:00 PM Report

The TSSA is a big bully in every industry they have any dealings. The head must come off this monster before it kills all trade and industrail activity in Ontario. They have too much power without any common sense. The heads of this organization needs to be removed!!
KFM 5/12/2014 9:19:42 PM Report

The problem was that the Ttsa did not do inspections before the couple purchased the busness, keeping the previous owner accountable for some of the cost for being complient, and then dumping it all on the new owners. The fact that this work had to be done for safety and enviromental resons isn't the problem, it is the TTSA messed up in letting small stations go without inspections in a timely manor.
KFM 5/12/2014 9:20:18 PM Report

The problem was that the TSSA did not do inspections before the couple purchased the busness, keeping the previous owner accountable for some of the cost for being complient, and then dumping it all on the new owners. The fact that this work had to be done for safety and enviromental resons isn't the problem, it is the TsSA messed up in letting small stations go without inspections in a timely manor.
inferno 5/12/2014 9:29:13 PM Report

TSSA inspectors are government workers who have nothing to lose. Read this story of another TSSA inspection.

http://www.hvactechgroup.com/hvacforum/index.php?topic=936.0
SarahMac 5/12/2014 9:30:18 PM Report

KFM, would you buy a home without getting it inspected? No, of course not.

The TSSA isn't in the business of protecting idiots from making bad business decisions. It was the couple's money and the couple's risk if they didn't get the property evaluated.
KFM 5/12/2014 9:54:37 PM Report

7 years then all of a sudden an inspection, the previous owners didn't have a clue how would they know, and who would they get to do this inspection? Think about it, Government at its best! Probably Any of the contractors who do the work wouldn't really know if the station was complient or not, it is the inspectors lack of due dilagence that created the problem. If they had been doing proper timely inspection this wouldn't have been a problem. They would have known what they where in for, and allot of the upgrades would have been done. Doing a home inspection is nothing like doing a gas station inspection. You can't call you insurance company and ask who they would recomend.
Great news 5/12/2014 10:03:28 PM Report

Perhaps the buyers were aware but got a "better deal" if they assumed the liabilities. If a bank was involved in the financing they would have demanded an inspection. We do Not know all the details.
superior87 5/12/2014 10:06:03 PM Report

What's the issue? If they purchased it not knowing that they had to comply with TSSA standards, that's their own fault.

People will complain about everything and anything.

It's ridiculous. You don't purchase a gas station without looking into this stuff. Why should I have sympathy here? It makes no sense.
Me Myself an I 5/12/2014 10:10:47 PM Report

KFM why do I get the feeling that had something tragic happened that caused injury or death to the owners or others you would be the first person demanding to know why the station was not shut down for safety violations?



Also, why did they not have the station inspected b4 purchase? Why did the Realtor no recommend such a thing and if so why did it not happen? Why did they not have a clause in the purchase agreement that if the station was not up to code they could get out of it or have previous owners help with the costs?

Also they had time and money to add a restaurant, should they not have put that effort into their primary business first?
statusquo 5/12/2014 10:50:45 PM Report

It's called "due diligence".
I certainly feel bad for the couple. But when you venture out and put this much money on the line, you really need to do your homework.
Sadly, it is what it is. I hope they get over it and somehow recover from this misadventure ...then again, even if they would have complied....gas station margins are razor thin. A restaurant this close to a major town? Unless they would offer something very unique and cost competitive I could not see a reasonable return on investment.
Heyden is too close to the Sault to make it a "must" stop destination. Unlike the Espanola turnoff (goldmine) or the tourist trap at Batchewana.

If I have to go to Wawa or Thunder Bay, my tank and belly is full in the Sault. If I come from Wawa, I can't wait to get to the Sault...either way...I "ain't" stopping in Heyden, gas or no gas...unless they have foie gras with truffles from Piedmont at Walmart prices.

anapeg 5/12/2014 11:51:21 PM Report

What I find interesting is the fact I have never heard of these people until the last couple of months and it is all due to stations closing. Are there no larger stations in need of repair or are their tired tanks quite alright for now?
Alystr 5/13/2014 12:08:35 AM Report

Watching people start kissing the governments ass and believe them is funny. Like others have said, they didn't inspect the last owners for years and as soon as these people took over, the inspections were non-stop.
MYPOINT 5/13/2014 1:30:08 AM Report

is as follows ...

It may be true that they gave these new owners many months to comply and bring their stations up to par. However this is the north and many of these stations are barely getting by as it is so making these very costly repairs might simply be impossible. That being said, I do think that the previous owners, new owners,the realtor, the bank, and the insurance company, among others, should be held at least partly responsible for these stations closing. The safety inspectors did NOT do their job either so they should also be at least partly responsible for these stations closing due to them not being up to code.

It seems to me that there is much more to this story than we are being told so it is very difficult to come to some sort of conclusion as to why this is happening at this time. I do believe that it also has something to do with an ELECTION coming up in the near future as well.

Either way, this is slanderous in my humble opinion!

As usual, your views may differ :)
dadal 5/13/2014 5:37:12 AM Report

Poncho55-if the TSSA was a "big bully" then the new owners would not have had multi extentions granted! Period!

SarahMac has a good point. Whomever was behind the sale of the place SHOULD have known that a proper inspection would be required BEFORE the property was put up for sale. Yes the new owners were to blame for not having an inspection BUT so are the previous owners and the realtor. Just as selling a home, an inspection should be done before the sale is finalized. Newbie buyers may not know this BUT the Real Estate company did.

So why were the new owners NOT advised to do so? Or were they and opted NOT do?

There IS more here than we were told. I suspect this was a "friendly" sale with the previous owners knowing there were sub standards to be delt with. And so did the Realtor. And the new owners were trusting, thus why the TSSA extended out multiple times.

I laugh every time I see that commercial for the Realtors that state to buy through them for your own protection. I know of home sales in the last few years where the realtor and owner KNEW of MAJOR issues that were whitewashed for unsuspecting buyers.

Back to the " Big Bully" comment. Would you be happy to have purchased fuel there and discover the fuel is tainted with water due to a crack in the storage tank? Or find out the pumps are reading incorrect so your 40 l of fuel is really 28 l? TSSA inspects for a reason. And not all Gov is eveil, people.
rockbanger 5/13/2014 5:53:30 AM Report

TSSA does not have the guts to shutdown Essar.

Essar is in non compliance continually.

Big Bullies pushing little people around.

Sickening.
6 fan 5/13/2014 6:43:18 AM Report

Ha ha exactly Esaar is the most non compliant Tssa company I have ever seen , I deal with Tssa on a regular basis , money talks BS walks
SandyM 5/13/2014 7:42:05 AM Report

For or against the TSSA isn't the information that Mr. Marshall listed above confidential?

It is up to the former owners to decide how much of the story THEY want out. What TSSA said and did with them should not be public knowledge. They are a regulatory agency, not a news reporter.

fcubed 5/13/2014 7:45:29 AM Report

I quote from story above ["TSSA inspectors live in the communities in which they work and so know first-hand the unique conditions in northern Ontario."]

Methinks it would be nice to know the names and home addresses as well as the address and phone number of these local residents who are the local TSSA inspectors. Further I would like these local inspectors to explain their work schedule over past seven years along with the specific reasons for timeliness of inspections at the subject fuel service station.
SarahMac 5/13/2014 8:00:11 AM Report

ONTARIO REGULATION 217/01 of the TSSA Act (otherwise known as the LAW) says that:

Unacceptable condition — no immediate hazard
16. (1) A fuel supplier, a certificate holder or a contractor who finds that equipment or a facility is in an unacceptable condition but that it does
not constitute an immediate hazard shall promptly give to the operator of the equipment or facility, a written notice, a copy of which shall be sent to
the designated administrative authority, that sets out,
(a) a description of the condition; and
(b) a statement indicating that the supply of gasoline or associated product to the equipment or facility will be shut off if the condition is not
corrected within the period of time specified in the notice. O. Reg. 217/01, s. 16 (1).
(2) The period of time set out in a notice under clause (1) (b) shall not exceed 90 days. O. Reg. 217/01, s. 16 (2).


The law says 90 days max. It seems like they were being very accommodating with the owners.

And the license is not transferable. So when they bought, they needed to apply for a license and this mess started.

25. (1) A licence or registration referred to in this Regulation is not transferable. O. Reg. 217/01, s. 25 (1)
Boomer4771 5/13/2014 8:28:18 AM Report

The new owners should have had the tanks and equipment inspected before they purchased. Do not blame others for mistakes, take owness of yours. TSSA are doing their jobs. As far as ESSAR goes it is higher up the latter that are allowing them to get away with non-compliances.
Mishipishsault 5/13/2014 8:37:44 AM Report

Who is going to help the motorists that run out of gas?
Gas stations are a neccessity, and should be treated as such.
Fuel is not a novelty, it is an essential service.
We live privileged lives in Canada and must protect the cornerstones that assist us.
cdn.chick 5/13/2014 9:12:47 AM Report

I would never buy a home without an inspection and the same goes for a gas station. Who in their right mind does not know that there are regulations regarding fuel safety and standards? Those are the people that shouldn't own businesses. I live out there and while it's unfortunate that they're closed, I never went there anyways. I made sure I had my gas before I left SSM. It doesn't affect me and it makes me sleep better at night knowing that my ground water is still clear and clean and that the place isn't going to blow up and take my family and I with it... P.S. I love the signs they put up every where stating "Forced out of business". Now I can take this article and wave it in my father in laws face, he believes every word they told him about this. I knew there was more to it than the original report. Thank you SooToday for covering both sides, for once.
Gentleman 5/13/2014 9:19:17 AM Report

Here we go again. Every time TSSA makes a public announcement, they use the words 'Public Safety' as their excuse leading to the ability to charge outragious fees to protect the public. How safe do they want the stations to be and at what exorbinate cost. Readers who have doubts should do their research on TSSA and read the many scary stories about their actions.
welcome2 5/13/2014 10:05:39 AM Report

I am not a gov't employee but am getting tired of every time a story breaks that involves some gov't agency issuing any kind of judgement, in the minds of people who comment on sites like this, it's a case of 'there goes the gov't screwing some little guy again"

The TFSA people are doing their job as assigned to them. I feel sorry for the owners of this station but the fact is they had more than a year to address the deficiencies identified. Their failure to do so left the TFSA with no alternative.

The fact of the matter is that as prospective buyers of this business, the present owners should have demanded that an inspection take place prior to their signing on the dotted line. Anybody ever heard of "buyer beware"? The problems would have been identified then and they would have had the option to a) walk away b)tell previous owner they would only purchase once the upgrades had been completed or c) upon receiving a quote for the value of the needed upgrades, agree to move ahead with the purchase while deducting the value of the repairs from the purchase price. I would have to question where this couples lawyer was during the purchase phase
Louis 5/13/2014 11:02:59 AM Report

From what Ive read, on both sides of the story, TSSA did not just keep giving extensions, it sounds like they would tell this couple to fix something, and they did, then come back and order new work be done. Those are not fair extensions, it is additional and NEW work that was not ordered to be done at the first inspection. How can hard working people that are not millionaires be expected to have the funds to pay for all of this after just purchasing a new business? 400 for a visit? This is unreasonable.
Louis 5/13/2014 11:16:22 AM Report

I would also like to respond to statusquo, perhaps YOU wouldn't stop in Heyden for food or gas, BUT the people that LIVE in Heyden now have to drive all the way to town for every little thing they need, it is truly a pain to drive all the way in for a loaf of bread, and sometimes you do run out of necessities even when you try to be prepared, and keep in mind, it isn't just a drive from Heyden to the Soo, but a drive from Searchmont, to the Soo! Also remember, not only did the community lose its only gas station and restaurant, where we COULD gather and socialize in the community, but also our convenience store, and our school. It isn't all about the people that drive by on there way to elsewhere, but the people that LIVE here and depend on the small businesses in order to not only survive, but have a sense of community! It is very unfortunate, not only for the business owner, but for all of the people that LIVE here as well. It sure doesn't seem like small communities have any support to thrive, or even survive.
DutchTouch 5/13/2014 2:31:04 PM Report

Although safety and the environment are very important I'm sorry to see these small service stations go.
Several years ago when my daughter and I were heading up the north highway a snowstorm ahead had forced a road closure.
We were so happy to have the service centre at Heyden for our stopover until the road reopened.
These places are very necessary for many reasons and to many people.
We'll never forget the help and companionship of the service attendants and other travellers.
ranny 5/13/2014 3:08:17 PM Report

The TSSA is being a bully and a sell out. Forcing gas station to buy new equipment every so many years. The same with the oil tanks in homes. Manufacture of companies requesting them to order new equipment in order to make sales or profits for these manufacture. Leaving the local business owner broke.
j.r.98 5/13/2014 4:10:56 PM Report

There is not much money to be made in selling of fuel anyway. Approximately 3 to 5 cents per gallon depending how the customer pays. All monies made at the gas station usually comes from the "extras " people buy such as cigarettes, lotto, snacks, etc... Hence lets open a restaurant. Maybe that's what they planned when they bought the place and just decided to keep selling the fuel until they were shut down.
Me Myself an I 5/13/2014 4:27:38 PM Report

@ranny yes forcing them to buy new because we all know old tanks never leak. They just felt like digging a big hole at the top of Bruce street where the Esso was
Ski-Dude 5/13/2014 5:06:46 PM Report

The TSSA management is complete and utter BS. This story infuriates me! If the station is non compliant and has the potential to cause harm (people or environment) why the eff was it operating prior to it being sold!!! As it says the sale triggered the inspection! This is not how to ensure our safety!!!

Sympathetic is not the word to excuse brutal management and disregard for anyone they deal with! Complete ignorance!

Regardless if there is a lesson for this family to learn or not, I feel damn bad for them! Such nice people!
steve70 5/13/2014 11:38:20 PM Report

TSSA has painted a picture that they did everything possible to help the owners. I do believe the events that took place were not quite as generous as made out. They made out that the owner did not comply, yet they did. TSSA has failed to mention that the owners did comply time and time again, where thousands of dollars were spent. Then after a few inspection they came down with the hammer and told them they had to do repairs that would cost them a considerable amount of money, to much that it just was not economically possible to do. I first hand seen the effort that this couple made and the improvements they did to make a busy for them selves. When they purchased said property yes inspections and everything was looked at very closely, and if TSSA would have done there part the inspection would have been done years ago, 2007, if I am not mistaken is when the "law" changed, years before the place was even on the market. Now full disclosure should have been applied in this matter, this I question...as the previous owner should have at least gotten a written notice from TSSA when that law was changed. Yes I do believe TSSA is a good thing and yes they need to keep on top of regulations, however under the circumstances of this situation I think a lot more time leniency should have been given. TSSA is not the Gov. they are a not-for-profit, SELF-FUNDED organization used by the Gov. to up hold the regulations. I have delt with TSSA in a different application and I too ran into discrepancies due to a different person coming in and giving his opinion on things and because his opinion was different I had to comply different and it cost thousands of dollars. I find it very disheartening, and those who know the couple in this matter know that this disgraceful display of power while up holding the so called Gov regulations, yet charge obscene amounts of money for inspections, and do multiple inspection but every time find something different thus having to make another visit. If an inspector can not do his inspection with one visit and find all the discrepancies then he should not be an inspector. But I guess they get payed for everytime they make an appearance hmmm one way to make money! I do feel bad for this couple and there HAS been a great injustice done, I know they wanted to be in compliance and tried many angles to make this happen, but yes the big TSSA man locked there pumps, and it was mentioned above about how larger companies get away with things, they don't but if efforts are being made they keep on giving those extension until compliance can be fully corrected. This was not what happened here, they were gonna show them who's boss, good for you TSSA. I don't believe your well worded response was totally accurate nor do I think it was needed. I am sure that the response was geared to once again bash the little guy down, ya poor poor TSSA. Like they say truth hurts and TSSA got stung and that is why this misleading article was written!!
borj 5/14/2014 8:04:36 AM Report

If this business was so bad where was the T.S.S.A. before it sold? Is it not strange that the inspector shows up two days after the new owners are there? The local fuel inspector from S.S.M is a piece of work and acts like a bully. SarahMac must study the T.S.S.A. a bit but fails to mention the exreme charges they charge and try to get away with. @dadal they are a bunch of bullies. PUTTING PUBLIC SAFETY FIRSTis the wrong motto...it should read WANT MONEY FIRST... @cdn.chick ...aren't you the person everyone wants in their small community supporting businesses and events.These people tried hard to buy and run a business which was probably their dream but thanks to the T.S.S.A. they were forced to close up and probably lose everything. Don't forget they did testing and addressed issues but the T.S.S.A. would just want more. How would you like to be charged $400.00 for a 20 minute meeting with the inspector? It is o.k. for E.S.S.A.R. to be non-compliance and blow up the west end of the city but are we ever safe now that the little station at heyden is shut down.@steve70...you are right and seem to understand how the T.S.S.A. operates. It is true that one inspector says one thing and then a different one will say something else.It is like they don't go buy the book and they are definetly harder on small business than big business. Marshall's letter is just a bunch of B.S. and they show know sympathy.Give a person a badge and a little power and look out it is his/her way or no way!
Rootrvr48 5/15/2014 10:08:21 PM Report

The TSSA inspector for the SSM area was an employee of McDougall Energy for 20 years, he is also best friends with one of the owners of McDougall Energy. Orders are written with unrealistic time lines all the time. There are only 2 licensed fuel contractors in the area, the TSSA inspector is best friends with owners of Superior Petroleum. You can now connect the dots as to why the 'little guy' is being singled out and forced to pay large amounts to be compliant or be forced to close. I have brought this very large conflict of interest to the attention of TSSA Management in the past, with no action or follow-up from them. If anyone knows the Lee's, let them know this info and tell them they should contact someone in Government about this conflict of interest. The TSSA inspectors decisions are not unbiased around here. He knows his stuff, just he should be in another city without so many industry friends.
Comments
35
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