‘The city is responsible for these damages’: Homeowners demand city foot the bill after construction project filled homes with grout

WINNIPEG — Some Seven Oaks-area residents are voicing frustrations with the City of Winnipeg’s slow response to property and street damages caused by sewer line repairs that happened almost two months ago.

In late May, work on a new land drainage sewer shaft at Semple Avenue and Scotia Street, completed by a City-hired contractor, caused a breach in the combined sewer shaft. This breach ended up pumping grout – a cement mixture – into several nearby homes.

“We’re waiting, waiting on our insurance when we feel the City’s insurance should be involved,” said Kaitlin Bialek, whose Semple Avenue home was filled with cement.

“The City should be saying, ‘yeah, we’re going to cover this, like, don’t worry about it.”

Bialek said the damage to her home is extensive, with repair estimates in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Cement

Cement is seen filling up Kaitlin Bialek’s basement after a leak which impacted around a dozen houses on May 29, 2021. (Source: Kaitlin Bialek)

She said the city hasn’t been very responsive and she’s received no definitive answer, as of yet, as to whether or not the city will help in covering the repair costs.

“We can’t afford to have a hundred thousand dollars or fifty thousand dollars or whatever it ends up being,” she said, “We don’t have the money to just fix this problem that the city created.”

George Munroe’s home, right next to Bialek’s, was also impacted by the sewer shaft breach.

Munroe said his weeping tiles were filled with cement and the city left the street, marred by large spots of unearthed asphalt, in a state of disrepair.

“The city is responsible for these damages,” said Munroe. “Why should we, as homeowners, use our insurance company to pay for the damages?”

If the city doesn’t respond to requests to pay for repairs, Munroe said he’s considering taking legal action.

“If they’re not going to come to the plate and do the right thing, well, then we’ll see them in court,” said Munroe.

Semple Avenue and Scotia Street

Semple Avenue and Scotia Street in Winnipeg have been left in a state of disrepair after work on a new land drainage sewer shaft in May 2021 filled homes with a cement mixture. (Source: Michael D’Alimonte/ CTV News Winnipeg)

Area councillor Ross Eadie said the city purchased liability insurance for the original sewer repairs and all damages should be covered.

But it’s going to take some time.

“The travesty is, these are residents,” said Eadie. “The City of Winnipeg taxpayers are victims here.”

“But this whole risk management and insurance stuff, the way it works, it’s not a pretty process.”

Eadie added the repairs to homes and the street itself will take months to finish.

And time is certainly on Bialek’s mind.

“If the city doesn’t rectify this soon and we go through the winter with this, in the spring we’re going to have a pool in our basement,” said Bialek. 

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