Well you read it in The Province, a “TRUE LIFE” Story right here in the Township of Langley….. A Minor accidental Mercury spill…. It is a travesty how this family was treated! Now, the rest of the story….….

Posted: November 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

Who is running this municipality? Staff or Council? Who is making policy for this municipality? Staff, or Council? What does General – Protective Services on our property tax bill cover? 

For the record and for those that haven’t seen The Province front page story published Friday Nov. 1st written by Kent Spencer, this is a REAL LIFE story of a taxpayer in our Municipality. Her name is Mrs. Oksana Fedjko who is an immigrant to Canada from the Ukraine who made the Township of Langley home about four years ago.

What wasn’t mentioned in the article is that Mrs. Fedjko called the office of Mayor Jack Froese requesting a meeting to discuss the problem she had, but was told that would not be possible. She phoned Mayor Froese’s office on two occasions with the same request for a meeting and was denied both times.

Democracy in the Township of Langley? An opportunity to talk to the Mayor?

What a foreign concept!!!

I will provide the following brief event time line clarifying the facts as it appears some have been blurred by the Township of Langley. Just in case some have not heard of this incident –

  • On or about April 4th, 2012 Mrs. Fedjko, at home, was feeling ill. She proceeded to take her temperature, unfortunately while shaking the thermometer it hit the side of the table and broke, leaving the mercury content of the thermometer on the floor.
  • Now, remember she is new to Canada (trying to develop her English skills) but she remembered an incident she observed in her home country so she called 911 who then patched the call through to the Fire Department. She explained the problem to the operator; the Fire Department arrived shortly thereafter.
  • The Fire Department arrived on or about 5:00 PM on April 4th, 2012 in full gear presumably ready to deal with this spill (mercury content of the thermometer). Mrs. Fedjko was told at that time her whole family would have to leave the house immediately. Everyone complied except Mrs. Fedjko’s mother who was upstairs and refused to leave; the Fire Department continued to demand that her elderly mother go outside and she had to submit to their demands.
  • The entire family, including Mrs. Fedjko’s young children, ages 20 months and 12 years, were barred by the Fire Department to re-enter the premises and were left outside that chilly night in early April. The Fire Department would not allow Mrs. Fedjko’s crying baby to touch her mom at all, wouldn’t allow Mrs. Fedjko to hold her baby – even though Mrs. Fedjko had not once touched the mercury (mercury content of the thermometer). The three firemen who arrived stayed on-site (outside or in their truck) from 5:00PM through to approx. 10:00 PM until Tervita arrived. Tervita is a private company contracted to the Township of Langley to mitigate and clean up hazardous spills. The firefighters were intent on preventing members of the family, including a 20 month old baby in diapers, both kids cold and uncomfortable plus an elderly mother in chilly temperatures, from re-entering their home. No effort was made to find the family a comfortable environment to stay in during this episode which I understand is standard practice in most municipalities.  Mrs.Fedjko was able to borrow a cellphone and find a place to take her family for part of the evening.
  • The Ambulance was called and upon arriving wiped Mrs. Fedjko’s hands and then left (even though she had not touched any mercury). She had not called them.
  • The Fire Department personnel on the scene were having difficulty in deciding how to deal with this spill (mercury content of the thermometer) issue and waited for the Deputy Chief to attend. On his arrival he advised Mrs. Fedjko that he had called Tervita in to clean up the spill (mercury content of the thermometer). Now remember how minor the Ministry of Environment stated this issue should be.
  • The Deputy Chief informed Mrs.Fedjko it would cost her $6,000 for Tervita to deal with the problem (mercury content of the thermometer). She absolutely refused, so he handed the phone to her and told her to speak to Tervita who then brought the price down to $2,000. Mrs.Fedjko’s asked the Deputy Chief to phone her husband – who also refused to pay and said he would clean it up himself as they could not afford to pay. The Fedjkos were of the understanding that such services were part of the responsibility of the Fire Department.
  • Once they realized that the Fedjko family was not willing to pay any money, the Deputy Chief told Tervita that they, the Fire Department, would cover the cost to get the job done (mercury content of the thermometer). The Deputy Chief told Mrs. Fedjko that they would have one month to pay the Fire Department back. As the Fedjkos didn’t have the money to do so, Mrs. Fedjko asked the Deputy Chief where she could go to challenge this? He said, “It’s their right to challenge this.” Now remember how minor the Ministry of Environment stated this issue should be.
  • Mrs. Fedjko asked the Deputy Chief what happens if we don’t have Tervita clean-up the spill? (mercury content of the thermometer) . His response was that they will have to stay outside and would not be allowed back inside. Now remember how minor the Ministry of Environment stated this issue should be.
  • Tervita attended at approximately 10:00 PM, dealt with the spill (mercury content of the thermometer) and the Fedjko family (kids and all) were not back in their home until about midnight. Tervita actually contacted the Fedjkos and told them they could come home, but when the Fedjkos arrived Tervita made them stay outside for a while longer; especially unpleasant for the little children and grandmother.  Now remember how minor the Ministry of Environment stated this issue should be.

Interesting notes re: Tervita bill (Your tax dollars at work) – The bill from Tervita states it was for the “cleanup of CORROSIVE materials” for a date in September 2012 (NOT April 2012).  Tervita invoices from the time it receives the phone call, in this case they billed for 6 hours (7:00PM to 1:00AM). They arrived at approx. 10:00PM to clean up a couple of drops of mercury. They charged for 4 KG of towels, when challenged they reduced it to 3 KG. According to Mrs.Fedjko they used no more than 200 Grams of towels. Now remember how minor the Ministry of Environment stated this issue should be.

  • 30 days later Mrs. Fedjko received a bill from the Township of Langley for $1,945.00. (mercury content of the thermometer). She was frustrated and confused so she phoned the Mayor of the Township of Langley and was told he was unavailable. She tried to make an appointment to try to see him but was refused; basically being told that the Mayor does not make appointments with private citizens.
  • Not satisfied she again contacted the office of Jack Froese, Mayor of the Township of Langley requesting a meeting to discuss her problem. She was flatly told that would not be possible.
  • A short time later she was contacted by the Municipality to see if she wanted to talk to the fire department which she readily accepted. She asked what would happen if she didn’t pay the bill and was told that the Township would force her to by sending a Collection Agency. In that meeting with Deputy Chief Bruce Ferguson and Bill Storey it was suggested that she could pay $50.00 a month on this bill (now $1,700.00) to which she refused. After long negotiation, she and her husband were then asked if they would accept the bill being cut in half to $850.00 ($847.56 incl. tax to be exact).  Mr. and Mrs. Fedjko were not happy but accepted it and started paying $50.00 a month from July 24th, 2012 through to April 24th, 2013 for a total of $500. There is a total of $347.56 still outstanding. She has stopped paying! All of this for a spill of mercury content of the thermometer.

So let’s see if I have this right? A resident of the Township of Langley has an accident at home with what is considered hazardous material. The resident follows protocol and calls 911 to look after the problem, you know, the General – Protective Services (First Responder) each of us pay a considerable sum of tax money for every year? You know, the services we are constantly informed about that are there to look after us? The last time I looked it didn’t provide a menu of services that are covered – It is for General – Protective Services!

So In Summary, what has happened since this story broke –

  • In a compassionate move Mr. Paul Zalesky, CEO of AllWest Insurance donated $1,000 and his employees donated a $500. Safeway Gift Certificate recognizing and knowing what it is like to be in a tight spot.
  • Prior to this incident going public, this policy of the Township of Langley (It must be a policy given the comments from Chief Gamble that his staff acted appropriately.) there was to be no bending of the rules. Remember Mrs. Fedjko was told that the Mayor’s office that they would send it out for collection and then the Chief said the balance would be tacked onto their Property Tax Bill? Which is it?
  • After the initial story broke and a follow up story re: the kind donation by a reader (and interesting comments from the Fire Chief) Mrs. Fedjko received a voice mail from Chief Gamble that she will not have to pay the outstanding balance. Great news (interesting what happens when you go public with an injustice) but this leaves many more questions for the Mayor and members of Council to answer to.

What still needs to happen –

  • Can the Fire Chief cancel a fee just like that? If so, under what circumstances can it be cancelled?
  • The policy of the Township of Langley (What is it?) now must be made public! If not residents, given this publicity, will obviously be reluctant (in the case of a dangerous goods spill) to call on our first responders which will or could pose a danger to all.
  • Mrs. Fedjko absolutely deserves an apology from our Municipal Council because of the actions of The Township of Langley.
  • Mrs. Fedjko absolutely deserves an apology from Mayor Froese for refusing to meet with her. (Two requests.)
  • Mrs. Fedjko absolutely deserves a refund of the $500. her family has paid to the Township of Langley on this erroneous bill for a service that should be covered as a taxpayer of the Township of Langley. I am told it is covered in all other municipalities.
  • Frank Bucholtz, Editor of the Langley Times wrote an editorial on their web-site on this issue Nov.7/13, an editorial I have to congratulate Frank on. (Although I must say it mysteriously disappeared by the next day on their web-site and we haven’t seen it in print, that is surprising isn’t it?) In response to that editorial he received a couple of email responses from two members of Council that require a response. They are –

Councilor Richter –“What happened here is just simply wrong – from start to finish how very sad the majority of Council did not agree with me”. Councilor Richter it will require more than your normal lip service to correct this wrong. For once in your Municipal career stand up and be counted, stop this verbal diarrhea.

Councilor Long –“The Township won’t be going after the poor family for the balance of the clean-up costs”. Councilor Long, that is really big of you. I find it interesting that you continue to try to find favor with the public despite wrong-headed decisions. Why don’t you have the guts to stand up for this family; do what is right and credit the Fedjko’s the $500.00 they should never have had to pay in the first place. Shame on all of you!      

In summary, this case, spilled mercury content of the thermometer quite frankly displays how out of control our bureaucracy is- led by this inaccessible Mayor.  A Mayor who has more time for his business buddies than for the private citizens he was sworn to serve. If Mr. and Mrs. Fedjko’s is “just another” nuisance complaint from a taxpayer, our community will be the poorer for it. This could happen to any of us!!!!

PS – I don’t put this on the back of our Firefighters; it is clearly on the backs of the senior bureaucracy as well as the current Mayor and Council!

Remember the line from Ralph Klein, then Premier of Alberta when questioned about the costs his Province endured when there was a BSE outbreak represented by one single older dairy cow which never got into the food chain –

 His answer was – “Shoot, Shovel and Shut Up”!

Is this the attitude our local government wants all of us to take????

RG

I am working on a few posts at present that I believe are of significant concern to Township of Langley Residents, come back often for news of interest to Township residents.

Protect your Democratic Rights – Protect your NEIGHBORS Democratic Rights – stay informed, stay involved and VOTE!!!

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Comments
  1. The Langley chief says its was such a toxic substance these (very-extreme) acts were needed (a tiny thermometer full of Mercury?), but Industry Canada says it was no big deal. This Chief made a very bad judgment call…he was wrong…period.

    Could have been easily and safely cleaned up.

    The Chief is in the wrong and he wont admit he took the wrong action for the situation; and the mayor/council majority is supporting the Chief because they are pals.

    ie Didn’t the fire dept play politics last election helping elect 5-6 of council? Isn’t Sparrows Husband a fire fighter for the township?

    “Just asking”

    The same council is too worried about trying to help developers pave farmland or ignore heritage based bylaws… They are busy fighting metrovan, the supreme court and residents in court…They are too dam busy spending 80% too much (of our money) on suspect land deals with colleagues…

    …too busy…

    …Too busy look at/admit the fact their Chief acted inappropriately. Should the Chief be fired? No, we all make mistakes, but his attitude and that of the mayor suck.

    Say sorry to these people. Refund their $500.

    Now it seems to me when people spill (truly) bad things they will be afraid to call.

    I would be afraid to call…I feel (from experience) if you call the Township of Langley for information, freedom of information, or ask for help and they send you ridicules bills or threaten to sue you…bunch of bullies. Why would anyone call these people for help? Speak up they will ban you; This is not even Canada anymore.

    Would they want $4000 to clean up a normal Compact Fluorescent bulb (found in every house in the dozens) if it broke (almost as much Mercury I bet)????

    Time to suck it up, admit a mistake was made; and refund the $500.

    http://www2.epa.gov/cfl/cleaning-broken-cfl

    So…what is the “fee” on the “fee schedule” for a broken Compact Fluorescent bulb?
    $4000? $3000?
    Or will I be sued for asking?

    Welcome to Langley (Township).

  2. Or I suppose “Deputy Chief”

  3. frank says:

    It was a District Chief (not deputy) who made the decisions against the council of his firefighters who were on scene first. Unfortunately TOL hired uneducated, unprepared and underqualified individuals for these management positions within the fire department when it went career. They hired from within the cesspool instead of branching out and getting the best people for the job.

    • Frank: I was conflicted to allow your one comment. While I would agree that the Township long ago should have gone into an open recruiting process, that does not minimize the quality of personnel in our department but it would have certainly improved the standard of leadership long ago. As an aside I have it on good authority from firefighters throughout the region that for this to have happened was outrageous and nobody that has come forward to me has ever heard of such a thing.

      • Frank says:

        Thank you for allowing the comment, although I regret the frustration in the comment. I think tax payers need to realize how far away the fire dept is in trying to reach the professional levels of our neighbors due to the lack of vision of the current crop of management. We have seen time and time again what these career staff have done for our community in terms of volunteering and fundraising, we have seen stories of how the much faster response times of career staffed halls have saved lives and property like never before. But how much growth and how many benefits are we missing out on because of a lack of management support for their career staff. Quick fact for all readers, the only member of the current management staff who ever held the job of a firefighter is the Chief, Steve Gamble. All others were farmers, truck drivers, trades workers, middle level management in non related services. All noble professions in their own right but completely unrelated to fire management. Yet we pay them all over 115k per year to manage a system they never actually worked in, just did as a volunteer side project?

        Perhaps a future article of yours could address the fire dept budget. Why is the paid on call budget unchanged from where it was when there were no career staff? Why is this expenditure not available to the public? Certainly these members go to significantly less calls than the four career halls that go to every single dispatched emergency (the number is around 10%, used to be 100%). How about the fact that there are more management positions in this dept than our neighbors, all with personal vehicles that they take home on our dime (sry has 400+ memebers, tlfd has 79 career firefighters), why do areas such as the fort and brookswood pay for full time firefighter response but if a paid on call crew shows up at a call 2 sec before career, they can stand down these career members who have significantly more experience, wouldn’t the fire chief mandate that these full time staff are in charge at a scene?. Why have the chiefs not empowered their full time staff to take over command of a scene and take the responsibilities away from the inexperienced and unqualified paid on call members? I have heard one assistant chief at an event say that they have paid on call dispatched to calls ( not the part time members fault, not attacking those that give their free time up) they are not needed at because if these part time members don’t get calls, they will be uninterested and may quit. Really? Is that the justification when our loved ones need help and none of these guys/girls show up to the hall (assuming they have regular lives/jobs) we delay our career staff to make a few people happy? This antiquated system of paid call response needs to complete the translation to career response and get called out at the discretion of the career members, not because we need to keep people happy, we need us all to be safe and get the value we all pay for.

        There are some major inefficiencies within this particular dept of the township. We need to look no further than the opening of 4 understaffed career halls. The WBC standards the firefighters talked about during last election is nothing new. They need 4 persons on the truck to work safely and effectively and yet our township opened halls with 16 members? A quick call to three other departments let me confirm that to meet this very important mandate of four man staffing you need 21 firefighters per hall. If we had some people within the fire deptartment who bothered to consult with other municipalities prior to opening the career halls, this huge issue could have been avoided. This paid call mentality has continued to plague the growth of this dept and we need someone like yourself RG to complete the transition and stop wasting money on a part time service that is not needed in the same capacity it once was.

  4. I have ex-haz-mat friend and business associate whom I asked to comment on all this. His comments (professional opinion) probably cant be posted. Lets say he agrees this is a disgrace. Shame on TOL.

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