Overflow problems irk homeowner

City says onus on residents to ensure tanks ready for fill-up


Their cup runneth over, and that means a call to the insurance agent.

Several Iqaluit homeowners who rely on trucked water delivered by the city have seen their homes flooded when malfunctions involving the overflow pipe forced water into their homes.

“Basically they don’t turn off the truck after the water tanks in the house are full so eventually they overflow into the house,” said one Tundra Valley homeowner, who didn’t want her name used. “And then if they don’t turn the truck off then it just floods your house.”

The homeowner said she knows “a half a dozen people that are within 500 metres of my house” who’ve had the same problem, sometimes causing thousands of dollars worth of damage.

The Tundra Valley homeowner said her mechanical room had an inch of water on the floor thanks to the overflow, which spread throughout her home. She said a contractor told her the price tag to repair the damage would be roughly $15,000.

“And I was probably mild compared to the others who have had that happen to them,” she said.

Her homeowners insurance will cover the repair costs, minus the deductible. But the claim would also affect her “incident-free” insurance status, and she feels the spill is the city’s fault. She’s waiting to hear if the city is going to pay for the repairs.

Public Works director Mark Hall said the city will pay, if a spill is found to be their fault.

But Hall said residents sometimes forget to clear their overflow pipes, or replace warning lights that have burned out.

“The obligation is with the client to make sure his light is working,” Hall said.

Contractor John Manning estimates his business gets six to 10 calls a year to clean up the mess left behind by overfilled water tanks. Bills for fixing the damage can range anywhere from $3,000 to $40,000, depending on how much water gets into the house, he said.

“The simplest thing to do to mitigate any other losses is to pull out all the flooring immediately, get the dehumidifiers in there, get the air movers in there, and start drying the unit out,” Manning said. “In the meantime you’ve still got to go to the underside of the house and remove all the plywood, softwood, air barriers and insulation and dry it out.”

Deenah Kelly, acting manager of the Iqaluit Housing Authority, said her agency hasn’t had a problem with overflowing water tanks. Between the authority’s maintenance staff and tenants, pipes and lights are kept in good working order.

“The system that’s in place is working for us,” she said.

The Tundra Valley homeowner said she’d like to see a system similar to oil or fuel tanks that cut off the flow from a pump when the tank reaches a certain fill level.

“Something that automates the shut-off rather than depending on somebody having a fast enough reaction would be (helpful),” she said.

But Hall said it doesn’t work that way because the water flows into the tank too fast. It’s the job of the helper – the worker who hooks the pump up to the tank – to check for blockages and shut the flow off.

Forty per cent of Iqaluit’s homes get trucked water service. Hall said city water crews report “ball park” 24 overflow incidents per year.

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