Explosion rocks northern village
by Derek Cornet
A gasoline-fuelled explosion gutted a sewage lift station in the Northern Village of La Loche last week, causing the Earth beneath residents’ feet to rumble.
The explosion occurred April 2 around 8:45 p.m. at the lift station on La Loche Avenue.
“We’re very fortunate the explosion went upward, so most of the damage was sustained by the building,” remarked La Loche mayor Georgina Jolibois.
Jolibois also said a HAZMAT crew with the provincial Ministry of the Environment arrived in the community five weeks earlier to begin testing for fuel in the village’s sewer lines. While the crew identified gasoline had entered the system, they were unable to pinpoint the source of the flammable substance.
The mayor went on to note the entire system had not been affected and there has been no reports of issues at local households. She added, with guidance from the province, village staff has been working hard and effectively at preventing the spread of the leak.
The situation, however, does not sit well with at least one business located near the site of the explosion. Charlene Klyne was the acting manager of the La Loche Fuel Bar when she received news of the blast. She rushed to the scene, zig zagging through a maze of emergency vehicles to check on her employees. When she arrived, she said those attending the station were startled by what had happened.
“The fuel bar is about 100 feet from the lift station,” Klyne said. “The guy inside (the store) said it was like a truck hit the building and the ground shook outside under another worker’s feet.”
While HAZMAT was back in La Loche yesterday (April 7) to continue their investigation, Klyne said La Loche Fuel Bar was unable to open at 9 a.m. due to gas fumes inside the building. Klyne first noticed the smell Feb. 21 and added, while some days the smell wasn’t as noticeable, there were occasions during -30C weather when employees needed to open the front doors for relief.
She’s also confident the fuel bar isn’t the source of the leak considering HAZMAT did a sweep of the property and found nothing. But, she’s nervous for her safety and those who work at the establishment stating nobody came to them after the explosion to ask if the building or employees were OK.
“Nobody has informed us about anything,” she said. “We’ve closed the public bathroom because we’re afraid an explosion may occur when someone’s in there.”
Jolibois said the lift station will need to be stabilized before the building can be assessed for damages. While there has been no sewer problems since the explosion, she said the building should be examined soon.
Last month, HAZMAT also conducted an investigation for carbon monoxide at La Loche Community School, which prompted its partial closure for close to two weeks. While government tests for carbon monoxide were negative, solutions to stem a mysterious odour were also conducted. Officials remediated negative air pressure in the school and installed a backflow valve leading to the main sewer line. Jolibois doesn’t believe the two incidents are connected.