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Stuff happens; reconstruction project woes

Almost a month after sewage backed up into an Elmira apartment unit, restoration work is now underway with the goal of returning the tenants to their home within two weeks.

The incident was quickly traced to reconstruction work being done on Samuel Street – the six-plex building sits on the corner of Samuel and Snyder Avenue – where a sewage pipe may have been dislodged.

While underground repairs were carried out quickly on the night of June 20, property owner Paul Schwindt spent the next few weeks pushing for the money to repair the damage in the unit where the sewage backed up. Estimated at a cost of $15,000, the work was delayed as the contractor, engineering consultant and the insurance companies argued about who should pay.

“I was caught in the middle, and I was really frustrated, said Schwindt, who finally got the go-ahead from contractor Steed and Evans on Tuesday. “It took more than three weeks to get it settled, but we finally got it resolved.”

The incident got started when residents of the apartment returned after being away for the weekend. Upon using the washroom facilities, they discovered that sewage was backing up into their unit. After inspecting the problem, Schwindt called the emergency number for Woolwich’s public works department; a crew arrived within minutes.

“I have to hand it to the township – those guys did a good job.”

Richard Sigurdson, an engineering technologist with the township, said the first order of business that night was to stem the flow. Workers turned off the water and began scoping the system to determine the cause of the sewage backup. They discovered a section of the sewage pipe had been dislodged or otherwise moved out of place. At that point, the contractor was called in, making repairs well after dark.

“These are situations that everyone tries to avoid … but you deal with them if you have to,” he said.

Since then, the township has been “indirectly involved” in the issue, but has been following up to ensure the work is moving head.

“We want to get this completed as soon as possible.”

Schwindt is of the same mind. Now that the contractor has accepted responsibility, he’s pushing to have the work done so that his tenants can return.

“It hasn’t been pleasant for them. They’ve been living elsewhere since [that night] and they had to rush to find someplace to go and to get their stuff moved,” he said, adding he hopes the company will compensate the tenants for the hassle and all the out-of-pocket expenses they’ve incurred.

Overall, the $2.5-million reconstruction project is running about a week behind. The Samuel Street work is part of a large undertaking that has ripped up much of Snyder Avenue, causing traffic headaches on the west side of Elmira.

In this particular project, underground water, wastewater and storm sewers are to be replaced in the reconstruction of Samuel Street, Ann Street and portions of Riverside Drive, Herbert and William streets. New curbs, gutters and sidewalks will be installed.

Sigurdson said the work is expected to be completed on schedule, which would see it wrap up Oct. 18.

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