Blaster has permit suspended after rain of rocks in Colwood

WorkSafeB.C. has suspended a blaster’s permit after an incident where rocks rained down on a Colwood neighbourhood, including a 17-pound chunk that smashed through a couple’s bedroom ceiling and broke their bed frame.

Tri-X Excavating Ltd. of Victoria continued blasting at 517 Latoria Rd. Wednesday, with neither the City of Colwood nor WorkSafe able to estimate how much rock is being removed from the 5.66-hectare site slated for a subdivision.

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WorkSafe spokeswoman Trish Knight Chernecki said the certificate for the blaster was lifted for seven days, potentially longer depending on an investigation expected to be completed by the end of the week.

Since 2009, WorkSafe has suspended and reviewed about 35 B.C. blasting certificates.

Brian Belcher, a resident of Bezanton Way about 100 metres west of the blast site, compared the rock removal to the levelling of a small mountain. “I just think that something that moves that much material and blasts that much rock shouldn’t be approved on such a grand scale,” he said.

The development, expected to include 59 residential lots, was approved by a previous council.

Belcher said he’s concerned the blasting could cause long-term structural damage to neighbouring residences. “Frequently, our house shakes with intensity and items fall off shelves, but in the municipality’s eyes, this is all normal. If a significant earthquake ever hit, we wouldn’t know it and would just brush it off as another blasting event.”

The development company for 517 and 535 Latoria is Homewood Constructors. In 2013, B.C. Assessment figures showed that 517 Latoria was the most valuable residential property in Colwood at $2.79 million. This year, the assessed value is $2.61 million.

Homewood’s president, John Newton, is away and a man who answered the company phone refused to answer any questions or provide contact information.

The site was rezoned in 2007 from rural to comprehensive development after a public hearing, said Colwood spokeswoman Sandra Russell. Nothing happened until 2014, when council reissued a development variance to reduce minimum sizes for three lots.

Colwood received three complaints about the blasting prior to Monday, when a huge blast about 2:15 p.m. sent rocks flying 90 or more metres, shattering a vehicle windshield and two roofs and leaving remnants all over Pondside Terrace.

Belcher said he hopes Colwood will now monitor the site. “Just because a blasting event is within the legal limits doesn’t mean it won’t damage neighbouring properties.”

Municipalities have no role in investigating blasting practices, Russell said, but Colwood requires that blasting companies “adhere to the safe work practices dictated by WorkSafeB.C.”

The permit runs until May 31.

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