Griesbach tenants assess damage, wait for insurance after homes flooded with sewage

Nearly a week after their homes flooded with raw sewage, residents in Griesbach were still cleaning up, assessing the damage and trying to determine how much they may be compensated.

Full cost of damage to 125 rentals homes flooded Friday still being determined

Restoration company workers pump sewage and remove contaminated items from homes in Griesbach Wednesday. (Dave Bajer/CBC)

Days after their homes flooded with raw sewage, some residents in Griesbach are still cleaning up, assessing damage and dealing with insurance companies about compensation.
Tenants in 125 housing units reported having damage from the flooding that started Thursday, Westcorp Property Management said Wednesday. 

Renters must have insurance but the amount of compensation each tenant will receive depends on the extent of damage and their policy with their insurance company. 

Colin O'Brien's home on 107th Street was one of the worst hit, with four feet of sewage in the basement. 
Colin O'Brien said the family is moving to another unit in Griesbach for Aug. 1. (Dave Bajer/CBC)

He said his insurance coverage with TD Meloche Monnex is limited at $15,000, while he estimates damage will total about $35,000. 

O'Brien bought waders, masks and gloves to re-enter the home and see what they could save. 

"We wanted insurance to see we made an effort to salvage and save everything we could," O'Brien told CBC News Wednesday. 

O'Brien and his wife and their two small children stayed in a motel for a few nights before going to a friends' place. 

For living expenses including meals, motel rooms, gas and health supplies, he said, they have been reimbursed $400 from the insurance company so far. 

'First step is critical'

Westcorp has urged renters since Sunday to get in touch with their insurance companies to get the claim process started on coverage for personal belongings and costs associated with "temporary displacement."

"This is an opportunity and reminder for anyone who is renting to review their renter's insurance policy and ensure their plan and payments are up to date," said Michelle Calloway, director of residential property management. 

"This first step is critical to expedite the process of getting people back into their homes."

On Thursday, Westcorp was still in Griesbach doing assessments and sanitation work and determining the infrastructure and appliances that needed replacing. 

An estimated amount the property management company would spent was not yet available.

The Alberta Motor Association, one of the biggest insurance companies in the province, said it has 100 clients in Griesbach but only five have filed claims so far. 

Ted Koleff, vice-president of claims with the AMA, said their policies cover between $10,000 to $25,000 for water and sewer backups. 

Koleff said in general such damage at residential dwellings is covered by most insurance policies.

"I can't speak for other insurers of course — it depends on the insurer and it depends on the type of coverage and what was requested by the policy holder," Koleff said. 

"Everyone who has insurance really needs to check with their own insurer to understand the ins and outs of their coverage." 
Colin O'Brien's basement after water was drained from initial flooding. (Dave Bajer/CBC)

Brandon Rideout, who lives on 107th Street in Griesbach, said his insurance through Unifund doesn't cover sewer backups.

When the flooding started, he tried to move things in his basement but wasn't successful for the most part. 

"Everything I had down there that was not up high enough or that I was not able to get in and salvage before the water got too deep is completely garbage."

He thinks he's out $6,000 in personal items lost. 

A small army

Workers from restoration companies in suits and masks were pumping out sewage, sterilizing homes and removing contaminated items this week, Rideout noted. 

"It looks like a small army here doing what they need to do, which is very helpful." 

Westcorp is responsible for restoring the rental buildings and sanitizing or replacing appliances, furnaces, water tanks, washers and dryers, which the management company provides. 

Contents inside homes are tenants' responsibility.  

Westcorp said it responded to the first call about a sewage back up shortly after 5:45 p.m. Friday.

Contents of a Griesbach home put outside for disposal on Wednesday. (Dave Bajer/CBC)

A mechanical technician on site Wednesday told CBC News that Epcor, responsible for drainage operations in Edmonton, was largely unresponsive until Sunday, when the damage was already done.

Epcor said an extraordinary volume of rain triggered a shut down of the system on Friday. 

Crews were trying to lower water levels in a nearby drainage tunnel by pumping out excess water, which had reached 7.6 metres. 

The normal water level in the tunnel is below 5 metres.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the utility had five large tanker trucks on hand to remove water from the sanitary sewer tunnel at the lift station near 153rd Avenue and Castle Downs Road to another part of the system not connected to the tunnel, Epcor said. 

As of Thursday morning, the water level was down to 4.2 metres despite getting nearly 5 mm of rain between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. 


O'Brien said he was thankful for Westcorp's fast action.

"They've gone way above and beyond the call of duty," O'Brien said. "They've just been phenomenal." 

O'Brien said they requested a new place in Griesbach and plan to move Aug. 1. 

"We love this community," he said. "We've been here for five years and we have no intention of leaving. This is a tremendous family neighbourhood and there are people here from all walks of life and I love that." 



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