Months after a road construction mishap caused cement to come bubbling through a city sewer line and into their basements, homeowners on a north Winnipeg street say they’re still waiting for answers — and fighting for compensation — from the city.
Twelve homes on Semple Avenue were affected when a contractor hired by the city breached a combined sewer near the homes, causing grout to enter the sewer line, the city has previously said.
The breach happened May 29, and Kaitlin Bialek says her family still can’t use their basement, which ended up filled with four feet of cement.
“None of this has been resolved. The city has not agreed to pay for any of it, and we don’t feel that we should have had to use our home insurance,” Bialek told Global News this week.
“My message for the city is, it sucks. You know, you’ve left all these homeowners with this mess to clean up for themselves.”
While work on her basement is nearing completion, Bialek says the family has had to deal with dozens of construction workers coming in and out of their home for months, fixing the issues including a major repair to the home’s weeping tiles, which were left plugged with hardened cement.
She says the total bill for the work is in excess of $100,000 and the city hasn’t paid a dime.
Bialek says the repairs at her neighbours properties have ranged from $60,000 to nearly $200,000.
“We’re lucky that our insurance covered it, but others haven’t been so lucky,” she said.
“The day it happened, all the contractors that we talked to kept telling us, ‘Oh, don’t worry, we’re going to take care of this. There’s going to be people coming in to clean it up. We’re going to make sure it’s all right.’
“And then it was like, hours after it happened, nobody was showing up. Nobody. Everybody kind of just disappeared.”
‘It’s a big mess’
Bialek’s neighour, George Monroe, says he’s the only one of the affected homeowners that hasn’t been able to get repairs started.
That’s because his insurance has said they won’t cover any of the costs, and he says the city has only offered to pay for half of the work.
Like Bialek, Monroe’s weeping tiles were filled with hardened cement when four inches of it came through his sewer line and into his basement.
He says he was given an estimate of $66,000 to fix the weeping tiles, but that wouldn’t include work needed in his basement to have a sump pump installed.
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“It’s frustrating when the city done the damage and they don’t want to cover the cost,” Monroe said.
In the meantime no repairs have been done, and his weeping tiles are still plugged.
“If we have a lot of snow in the spring and there’s a flood, the basement is going to flood,” he said.
While the city would not comment on specific claims, a city spokesperson said homeowners must go through their insurance to repair the damage, if insurance coverage is available.
Repair quotes can then be passed along to the city’s insurance, the spokesperson said.
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“The final amount covered through property insurance is a matter to be discussed between the property owner and their insurers, as it is ultimately up to their insurers to decide to exercise their right of recovery from the City’s insurers,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“Any expense for uninsured losses or expenses, including deductibles, may also be submitted to the City insurer or the insurance adjuster representing the City’s insurer, for review.”
It’s a response that both Bialek and Monroe say isn’t good enough.
“This was no fault of our own. There’s nothing we could have done to prevent this,” Bialek said.
“This was a city error, and the city should have stepped up to help us homeowners.”
— with files from Brittany Greenslade and Clay Young
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