Inside in the cold

Josh Pennell
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Customers still waiting on oil delivery

Tom Osborne has been getting calls from people dealing with a peculiar problem — they’re cold.
The reason is that they’re out of oil and could be for days.

Fuel trucks line up to get filled at Irving’s filling station on South Side Road in St. John’s Friday.
— Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

The MHA for St. John’s South says he’s gotten calls from people who could be waiting more than a week before their oil tanks are filled.

“Now they’re in fear that their pipes are going to freeze, and so on,” he says.

The repercussions of a cold snap, several storms and, of course, the province’s power problems mean demand for oil is high, delivery is slowed and companies are doing what they can to catch up.  

A Harvey’s Oil customer who lives in the centre of the city didn’t want to be identified, but said he’s without oil and will be for at least several more days.

“My house is cold. I’m cold,” he said. “It’s driving me crazy.”

He has a family and says he’s been circling space heaters from room to room around his house.  He has neighbours in the same predicament.

He’s called Harvey’s every day this week, but there’s only so much it can do for him considering it is catching up after losing two days of deliveries due to power issues and dealing with a city inundated with snow and ice.

“They told me I could get a jerry can full of diesel,” he says.

Diesel can be used as home-heating fuel.

Osborne said some of his constituents have been telling him oil companies are going around with jerry cans of oil from house to house offering people that much oil to get them through for a little longer.

Safety concern

Chris Forward with Harvey’s Oil says that’s not what’s happening — at least not with his company.

“That’s a policy we brought in as a safety concern in case you ran out of fuel,” he says.

The company isn’t going out with jerry cans of oil to get people through. Instead, if people think they’ve run out of oil any time, the company will send a technician to add a jerry can of oil, to check for leaks or problems other than the tank running dry.  

It’s a standard safety procedure, he said, not a measure to dole out small dribs of oil to people to get them through a night.

Fuel available

The centre city resident said he’s spoken with other oil suppliers who said they could get him fuel almost immediately.

Initially, he said Harvey’s inform­ed him that if he did get fuel from another supplier, his contract with their company would be automatically void.

On Friday when he called, he got a different message — the woman on the phone told him she didn’t think they would be implementing that policy given the current situation. The resident says he prepaid $500 a week ago for the oil he’s waiting on.

The norm is next-day delivery.

When asked if this is one of the most difficult scenarios Harvey’s has dealt with, Forward simply replied, “It is.”

The company does have a plan in place to deal with periods of high demand, but the triple hit of abnormally cold temperatures, storms and power outages have put unpredictable strain on the company’s abilities. Forward says it has been responding by hiring more drivers.

Investigation needed

Osborne is looking to the government for answers. The investigation the government plans into the province’s power issues should include investigations into the matters of people running of gas, propane and oil, he said.

The centre city resident still has an issue with Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s insistence that the situation is not a crisis.

“There’s lots of individual crises. Three on my street,” he says.

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Recent comments

  • Sam
    January 12, 2014 - 22:32

    While I pity the people involved, but this is a story because...

  • Ben
    January 12, 2014 - 22:29

    WHAT?? Governments fault! Come on we are becoming the laughing stock of the country. There are harsh weather conditions all over, with people being stranded for days. And Osborne wants government to look into that a private company cannot supply oil to people. Cone on someone get Tom another concert to organize! Dear god...

  • thomas
    January 11, 2014 - 13:01

    Dont be fooled by harveys response. i was four days waiting on oil a week before the ppwer problems. and in typical fashion they waited until the fuel price increase before the delivery and gouged me.