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Spaniard’s Bay council denies homeowner’s request to compensate for basement sewer backup

There was a lengthy discussion at the Monday, Aug. 13, Spaniard’s Bay council meeting about how to treat a sewer situation at a resident’s home on New Harbour Road.
There was a lengthy discussion at the Monday, Aug. 13, Spaniard’s Bay council meeting about how to treat a sewer situation at a resident’s home on New Harbour Road. - Andrew Robinson

SPANIARD’S BAY, N.L.

NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

CANADA

The Town of Spaniard’s Bay has denied a homeowner’s request to cover the cost of cleaning up her basement after sewer water backed up into the home on New Harbour Road.

The town did agree at its Monday, Aug. 13, council meeting to cover an invoice for $2,012.50 for digging work on her property and the replacement of a sewer line. This, according to Mayor Paul Brazil, was the result of a sewer line that cracked and caused a blockage in the main line. The town initially advised the homeowner that the issue was likely on her property.

The homeowner hired a contractor to do some digging. In doing so, it was discovered the problem was in fact the town’s line.

“The town workers told the (homeowner) that the problem was on her line, but where it was broke was just inside the main line, still in the road, outside her property,” explained Councillor Eric Jewer, chair of the public works committee. “It still had to be fixed.”

Brazil, who met with the homeowner and her family alongside Deputy Mayor Darlene Stamp the previous Friday, said he understood the homeowner was reluctant to move back into the home due to health concerns. The incident with the sewer backing up into her home happened while she was outside the province on holiday.

The homeowner, a senior female, was not present at Monday’s council meeting, but several members of her family were, and they spoke at various points during a debate that exceeded half-an-hour. They said green mold was present in the home and had inflamed her asthma. They also said she lives on a fixed income.

Brazil said there was a liability issue with the second request to pay for cleaning up her basement.

“We know where the problem started — it started with the town line,” he said. “But then the issue of being liable for it comes into play … Just because the break and back up was caused by the town’s infrastructure doesn’t mean necessarily they’re responsible for the damages that it might cause.

“Unless there’s an element of negligence that’s involved there, the town is not responsible for any damages incurred. That’s why safety valves are part of the building code.”

Coun. Paul Ryan also noted the home would have been protected from a sewer back up if a backflow prevention device was installed.

“That will actually stop sewer from coming in,” he said.

“This was something unknown to the town,” added the mayor. “It wasn’t something (the workers) could foresee happening. It wasn’t physically caused by our workers or anything like that — it was just something that happened underground, out of sight.”

Family members of the homeowner questioned council’s reasoning for not agreeing to pay for the clean-up job and were advised the homeowner could consider channels to appeal council’s decision.

“I know this was tough, and it wasn’t easy for people to put up their hands,” Brazil said following the vote on the motion not to pay for the cleanup. “Everyone knows the situation that this homeowner finds themselves in … It’s not an easy decision.”

editor@cbncompass.ca

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