Halter Street resident Faith Lopers said she believes vibrations from work to replace a nearby watermain and associated construction caused the cracks in the foundation.
She’s not the first person in the neighborhood to take the township to task over what’s known as the Maryhill Isley north watermain replacement project. Dirty standing water in some areas led Lopers’ neighbour Tony Schulde (who spoke to the Observer last fall) to erect a “West Nile Crossing” sign on his yard to catch the township’s attention after the construction created drainage problems near his home.
Lopers believes the summer’s construction created another issue.
“Now that they are all done the construction, I have two cracks in my foundation,” she said.
Her assertions are now being investigated by the township.
Woolwich director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley said staff will work with the Lopers to explore options for possible compensation if the family chooses to pursue the case further.
Typically, when the township contracts out a project, an indemnification clause insures the municipality against damage claims, he explained.
“It creates the responsibility for the contractor to deal with any claims flowing from their work, admittedly on behalf of the municipality, but it’s their work so they have to take responsibility.”
After conversations with township staff, the project’s contractor, Regional & Sewer Watermain Ltd., and an inspection by a consultant hired by the contractor, Lopers was told the company was not at fault for the damage. She now hopes to continue with her claim.
The Lopers’ home stands on the corner of St. Charles Street and Halter Avenue, along one of the drainage ditches. The new, larger ditch and its sharp slopes, which start at the side of the road on her property, are planted with grass and difficult to mow, she also argued. Though a lesser issue, Lopers thinks the new drainage setup is responsible for the pine trees growing on her lawn along St. Charles Street turning a rusty brown.
Lopers noticed water damage in October after discovering cracks in the foundation above a basement bathroom window and the white paneling of the bathroom became waterlogged. She said another crack in the cement foundation caused the mould in the downstairs family room along the baseboards of one wall. It’s the first time the house has seen water damage in about 12 years and the mould could be responsible for making the family sick, Lopers said.
With claims such as this one, the township passes the information to the municipality’s insurance company, which then deals with the contractor due to the indemnification clause, Kennaley said.
Before construction began, staff photographed nearby properties, including the Lopers’ home, but the contractor has thus far declined the family’s request see the photos.
“They are refusing to supply me with the pictures that they took of my house. … I said, ‘Well, if there was a crack there before, then you’re not liable so you’re clear and free. But if there wasn’t and it has a crack now, then why don’t you just say ‘we’re sorry this happened, we’ll repair the damage’?’”
Kennaley said there are legal issues involved with releasing the images.
“What [Regional & Sewer Watermain Ltd.] has said through their insurers is that they do not believe this is the appropriate point in the process for those photos to be released. We don’t want to undermine the indemnification clause, so we are not taking issue with that at this point in time,” he said.
Lopers has contacted a lawyer, who is writing a letter to the contractor. The homeowner also hopes to get an estimate on repairs and start a petition around her neighbourhood asking neighbours to check their homes’ foundations.
“Once the spring comes and the snow melts at my foundation level, it’s all going to come into my basement,” she said.