oil and water

Posted on: 8 September 2013

The house we’ve been living in sold!IMAG0680-1

It’s an old house (in an upscale neighbourhood, surrounded by mansions, but that’s irrelevant to this story). Turns out the previous owners failed to remove the underground oil tank, a remnant of the city’s pre-gas heating days. Before the property changes hands, it had to be done.

So, a few weeks ago, a crew of two started digging up our driveway. (Making lots of noise early in the morning and during Ashelyn’s nap times, may I add.)


Once the oil tank was uncovered, they found a problem. It had rusted and leaked, contaminating the surrounding soil. So they dug a bigger hole:


And carted away the contaminated stuff. That was two weekends ago, the last weekend of August. The hole in our driveway was patched up with new dirt, our front door cordoned off because the front steps had been demolished in the digging process.

That was the beginning of our water woes.

I had a music directorship gig out in Langley from Monday to Wednesday, which left Kevin at home by himself. (Ashelyn comes with me, because she doesn’t sleep for anyone else, remember?) While we’re away he texts me about “the water getting so small,” which in such vague terms doesn’t register with me as significant.

Until I return. Something was wrong with the water pressure, alright, as in there was none. I eke out a shower on Thursday. I run Ashelyn’s cloth diapers through a soak cycle, then a wash and extra rinse, but the water is so scarce I can’t be sure they’re clean. So I leave them in the washer because I don’t know what else to do.

Meanwhile the flow around the house is steadily diminishing. We figure we can hold out until our landlord is back in town on the 31st. Except that weekend is Labour Day long weekend. Our landlord can’t contact the oil tank crew – presumably to ask what they did – until Tuesday. We wash dishes by trickle, and take trickle showers.

Tuesday: No water. By now even the trickle has petered out, and nothing at all issues from the taps. Our toilets no longer flush. I receive notice that a plumber will drop by the next morning at 8AM.

Wednesday: 8AM, no plumber. A few hours later one of the oil tank guys shows up and basically says it couldn’t have been them who messed up our running water. Later in the afternoon someone comes to take a look. He’s joined some time later by two others – plumbers! They poke around and seem to believe the oil tank crew damaged a water pipe, after all. A little more digging is in order, they say, just a matter of getting down to the pipe and repairing it. The plumbers would be here at 8AM the next morning and we should have water again by noon.

Meanwhile, the place is becoming rather unsanitary. We’ve tried to keep on top of the dishes, but it’s a losing battle and fruit flies are breeding in the sink. The bathroom is starting to smell faintly of pee. Soon all three of us will be running out of clean clothes to wear. We invite ourselves to my brother’s for dinner (again).

Thursday: 8AM, no plumbers. They do arrive just after noon. They’re very nice, but unfortunately, because a pool of water has accumulated under the house, they can’t reach the pipes. An excavator is needed to dig a drainage trench. Hopefully that’ll be possible for tomorrow, they tell me. They leave.

And then return, with instructions to do some preliminary digging. They successfully locate the pipe. It seems to be crushed. We’ll be back at 8AM tomorrow morning to fix it, they say. Is that too early?


The offending water pipe, repaired at last.

Friday: 8AM, no plumbers. It’s okay, though; by the time Ashelyn is up for the day they’re here at work. Ashelyn plants herself in front of the big bay window and solemnly assumes the role of supervisor. This involves distracting the plumbers with periodic waving and exclamations of “hi!”

By late morning, WE HAVE RUNNING WATER AGAIN! The plumbers show me the broken pipe segment, sheared off at the juncture where it meets the foundation of the house. Was it the oil tank crew? They seem to think so. At this point I don’t really care because RUNNING WATER. Flowing so happily from our taps and showerheads!

That was a twelve-day saga, for those keeping track. Longer, if you include the oil tank excavation.

Also? Since this story opens with (not) our house being sold, it’s only fitting that I end with the fact that we’re moving at the end of the month. Fun times!


2 Responses to "oil and water"

You are a hero for being able to endure all of this and write about it without using even one four-letter word! 😉 I feel so badly for you, but at the same time, am glad you are moving, hopefully to a less toxic place!

At least we had electricity (or so I kept telling myself)!

I don’t mind the whole relocation part of moving – although this neighbourhood is lovely – but the packing and unpacking … UGH. And with a toddler underfoot … UGHx10^100!

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