A stop-work order was issued for the Soleil construction site after a worker became ill. (Aaron Hinks photo)

White Rock highrise stop-work order raises ‘level of concern’ for neighbours

Developer says site of former gas station being remediated, area residents not at risk

A stop-work order for a White Rock highrise construction site – which has been a point of concern for some area residents due to possible airborne contaminates – was still in effect this week, more than a month after it was issued by WorkSafeBC.

However, the developer of the project, RDG Management, says there is no risk to nearby residents.

WorkSafeBC issued the stop-work order July 24 after workers reported “severe signs and symptoms consistent with overexposure to airborne contaminants such as benzene.” One person was sent to hospital.

“The WorkSafeBC inspections are underway and we will continue to follow-up with the employer to assess and mitigate the risks at the site,” WorkSafeBC media officer Ivy Yuen told PAN via email this week.

RELATED: White Rock highrise on hold after workers exhibit ‘severe’ overexposure symptoms

The worksite is located directly north of the recently-opened Oceana PARC retirement residence, which stands 23-storeys tall and includes nearly 200 rental units.

When asked if residents adjacent to the worksite have been put at risk due to the airborne contaminants, Yuen said “We are unable to comment on the safety and concerns of neighboring sites.”

RDG president John Rempel told PAN Tuesday that there is no risk to Oceana PARC residents. He explained that the site used to be a gas station from 1950 to 1986 before it was developed into a strip mall.

The contaminated material, he said, was trapped in the soil for more than 30 years with no way to off-gas.

“Once it’s exposed to the air, you get an initial smell of gas vapours, and then they dissipate,” he said, adding that the contaminated soil is to be sent to a secondary treatment centre.

Rempel said once the project is complete, RDG will submit reports to the Minister of Environment and obtain a certification of completion that the site has been successfully remediated.

“So we’re actually doing a favour for the area because it’s been there for… basically 30 years in the soil,” Rempel said.

Rempel said employees have been doing additional testing within the last week, and he expects the stop-work order to be lifted within the next number of days.

“I know it’s created a lot of uncertainty for people. But, you know, it’s been disclosed to all the purchasers that this was a gas station, and that part of this development will be cleaning up the site. We’re happy to do that, it’s an expensive undertaking, but it’ll make the area better in the long haul.”

PARC Retirement Living president Tony Baena said they have not yet been contacted by the health authority or WorkSafeBC about the circumstances regarding the worksite.

PARC found out about the stop-work order, Baena said, from residents who noticed it on their daily walks.

“We have reached out to the developer in order to get an update in terms of what the issues and concerns are that have been raised on the site and what they have in place for a mitigation plan. At this point, we’re just waiting to hear back from them, they have responded back to us to indicate that they do have a plan in place,” Baena said.

Baena said that, as far as he’s aware, none of the Oceana PARC residents have complained of negative health symptoms relating to airborne contaminants.

“They’re looking more for – as are we – information because obviously, when you see a stop-work order and you read through it, it does raise a level of concern,” Baena said.

The worksite is to be the future home of the Soleil tower, which is to stand 26-storeys tall and include 178 units. The building is to have five levels of underground parking.


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