City not liable for hydrant leak damage

A Terrace resident is furious that the city's insurance is refusing to cover $10,000 in damage to her basement caused by a city pipe leak.

  • Fri Jul 27th, 2012 1:00pm
  • News

A TERRACE resident is furious after water from a city-owned fire hydrant destroyed the basement of her home and the city’s insurance refused to pay for it.

Tonya Stenquist, who runs a daycare from her home on Sparks St., says water from a broken city pipe caused $10,000 worth of damage to her property and belongings.

The hydrant is located about 14 metres from her home, and damage was caused by a leak sprung from an underground pipe that feeds the hydrant.

But in response to a claim she filed with the city to recover costs, the Municipal Insurance Association of British Columbia, the city’s insurers, said the city is not liable and will not be paying.

It came through 13.4 m of land through concrete footings,” said Stenquist of water from the city-owned pipe that flooded her basement.

She first noticed water in the basement Friday, June 30, the first day of a long weekend.

We pulled the carpet back and tried to make dams and tried to stop it,” Stenquist explained, adding she called someone in to check the pipes and water connections inside her home.

Nothing was found to be wrong, she said.

On Tuesday July 3, Stenquist called the city.

And when she went outside to stand on her front lawn, Stenquist said it squished beneath her feet.

Water was coming up over my feet,” she said.

The city determined it was a leak in an underground fire hydrant pipe.

They shut it off, wrapped a plastic bag around it, and there it sits,” she said.

Stenquist said that she took two trucks full of personal items and daycare items to the dump.

My daughter had to leave for two days because it was so wet in here,” she said. “She has asthma.”

But after filing a claim with the city,  Stenquist said its insurers refused to cover the cost of damage to her home.

Our investigation into this matter has concluded and we regret to inform you on behalf of the city that we are unable to assist you with your claim,” said a letter to Stenquist from assistant claims manager from the city’s insurer David Tupper.

In this case the flooding appears to have been related to a hydrant leaking below ground,” it said. “The city is not automatically responsible for leaking water simply because the city owns and maintains the water infrastructure.”

The letter continued that as the city has no way to monitor buried water infrastructure and anything could have caused the leak, there was no way to tell a leak would happen.

Because of this, and because the city does test its hydrants, the city was not negligent and therefore it is not required to pay, said the letter,

An initial letter from the city’s insurance company noted section 288 of the Local Governments Act.

A municipality, council, regional district, or greater board, as defined in section 872, is not liable in any action based on nuisance … if damages arise, directly or indirectly, out of the breakdown or malfunction of (a) sewer system, (b) a water or drainage facility or system, or “a dike or a road.”

But Stenquist asked, if it is city infrastructure on city property that caused thousands worth of damage to her home, who is then responsible to pay?

“Water damage destroyed my finished basement,” said Stenquist. “How can you not be responsible to pay for a fire hydrant that you own?”