Stewiacke woman battles town over water leak after fire hydrant repairs

An 89-year-old woman in Stewiacke is blaming the town for water that began seeping up out of the ground and flooding part of her property, but the town says she has to fix the problem.

Town threatened to cut off water service to 89 year old who has no plans to pay for repair work

Maria Cameron holds the letter sent to her by the Town of Stewiacke. She's battling the town over flooding on her property that started soon after town staff repaired a fire hydrant on the street near her home. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

An 89-year-old woman in Stewiacke, N.S. is in a battle with the town, blaming it for water that began seeping up out of the ground and flooding part of her property.

Maria Cameron has lived in her Riverside Drive home for more than 40 years. She says workers from the town dug up the ground to do some work on a fire hydrant in front of her house a few weeks ago.

"They sent a work crew and they were there from about 8:30 to after four one day," Cameron said.

"Then they came back some days later and dug up around my lawn area and put in a new turn off."

Since then she says her front and side yards have been pooling with water.

Mayor responds

Cameron brought the problem to the attention of town staff. Not long after that she received a letter from the town administrator telling her if she didn't make repairs, her water service would be cut off.

"It was a case of, you better take care of it, because he wasn't taking any responsibility on behalf of the town," said Cameron. "It said it was my responsibility and that if I didn't make repairs then they would turn my water off."

Stewiacke Mayor Wendy Robinson maintains town crews did nothing wrong and that Cameron's water would only be shut off to have it repaired. 

Robinson says the wording in the letter was harsh, but there are no immediate plans to terminate the Cameron's water service.

"I have great empathy and sympathy for her, however, I'm completely behind the decisions and the way the policies are written for the town. So, we are unable to meet Mrs. Cameron's expectations," Robinson said.

Maria Cameron's yard in Stewiacke is filling with water. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Crossing the property line

Mayor Robinson says most of the maintenance was done "quite a ways into the street." But to replace the valve, crews got closer to the property line, but nowhere near where the leaks are now. 

Town policy contains the problem to Cameron's side of the property line, Robinson says. 

"I think, and I'm explained to by the town engineer, that it's likely to have been an older pipe. We disturbed it a little bit when we reconnected it to the new shut-off valve, which may have caused just enough of a stir for those leaks to show up."

Robinson says there will be no investigation if it means disturbing her property. That may seem "heavy-handed," but she says her hands are tied.

"It is never anybody's intent at the town office to just enforce the worst case scenario right off the bat. We always try, we always bend over backwards," she said.

'Just ludicrous'

But Cameron wants the problem fixed. To find out what's happening underground she'll have to pay for an excavator to come in to dig up her yard to pinpoint the problem.

"I think that's just ludicrous because I don't think that's an expense I can afford," said Cameron. "I don't feel it's my responsibility because I feel it was their actions that caused the leak in the first place."

If Cameron decides to go forward with the excavation she could get reimbursed through the town's insurance.

"We will continue to try to work with her to work out the problem`, but we can't move on our end any further until it's dug up," Mayor Robinson said. 

About the Author

Paul Palmeter

Reporter

Paul Palmeter is an award-winning video journalist born and raised in the Annapolis Valley. He has covered news and sports stories across the province for 25 years.

With files from David Irish

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