On April 20, 2012, a contractor drilling a borehole for a geothermal system outside an Oakville client’s home struck a pocket of pressurized natural gas 120 metres below the surface. Unfortunately, nobody noticed the release of the colourless, odourless gas for several days until a gas alarm went off in the basement of neighbour’s home 100 metres away. The local gas utility discovered high levels of the flammable gas both inside and outside the home and were able to eliminate the risk with proper ventilation.
Although disaster was averted, the event triggered a call by fire officials and local politicians for a moratorium on the installation of vertical closed loop geothermal systems. In response, Ontario moved quickly to revoke and replace O. Reg. 177/98 (Ground Source Heat Pumps) under the Environmental Protection Act with a new regulation that requires installers to monitor for gas and be prepared to take effective action in the event of a release. According to the Canadian GeoExchange Coalition (CGC), the government has overreacted and should immediately repeal the new regulation.
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