Confusion reigns over Vancouver geothermal heating issue

The accidental breach of an aquifer, part of a geothermal heating scheme, at a house under construction in Vancouver has created some confusion among officials as to who was responsible for allowing the project to go ahead.

According to the Vancouver Sun, nearly two million litres of fresh water spills each day from the residence at 7084 Beechwood Streer, threatening multimillion dollar homes nearby.
Vancouver port
It has since emerged that there is puzzlement as to who ultimately has responsibility for oversight of the installation of geothermal residential heating systems in the city.

With regard to the permitting process, the city said Thursday it defers to the province, while the province says it falls under the purview of the city.

The city has said a permit is not required for geoexchange systems and told the newspaper had they been aware of the scheme they would have made the developers aware to contact the province and ensure à‚ adherence to proper provincial regulations, and that they had a qualified professional, such as a hydrogeologist or geotechnical engineer, to carry out the work.

However, Vivian Thomas, a spokeswoman for the British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, said the drilling of holes for the geoexchange heating system didn’t fall under the province’s purview because the province’s geothermal rules only kick in when drilling at depths of 200 metres or more.

The drilling that took place in Vancouver was only 18 metres, she noted. “If they are doing improvements to their property, they have to obey city bylaws.”

The picture is confusing because both the city and the province have since issued orders to the homeowner, Feng Lin Liu, to fix the breach.

The order from the province states the company GeoEnergia, which the homeowner hired to install a geothermal loop on the property, is not a qualified well driller or qualified professional, as defined by the Water Act and the Groundwater Protection Regulation.

Adding to the confusion, industry representatives said Thursday they believed that provincial regulations did capture the activity taking place in southwest Vancouver.

When asked if it would be changing its code of practice, Vancouver said, “The city is currently in discussions with industry, related associations and the province, and any changes to current policy would depend on these discussions.”

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