Edmonton homeowner facing $6,000 in repairs after Epcor pipe floods basement

A north Edmonton homeowner is on the hook for $6,000 in repairs to his basement, after an Epcor-owned pipe broke and flooded it with sewage.

'We got very, very frustrated … and we couldn't do anything about it'

Crews working outside Joe Hak's home on a broken Epcor sewage pipe. Epcor says Hak is still responsible for nearly $6,000 in damages to his basement after the break caused a sewage backup. (Joe Hak)

It was a pretty bad day when a pipe collapsed near Joe Hak's north Edmonton home, flooding his basement with sewage.

Luckily, the pipe wasn't on his and his wife's property, so they didn't have to cover the cost of repairs — or so they thought.

After the basement flooded on April 8, Hak said Epcor inspectors told him he was lucky the pipe that collapsed was in front of the sidewalk of his Beaumaris home.

"They said 'Well, it's outside of your property because it's a city pipe. And if it were inside your property line, it would cost you a lot, but this is … the fault of the pipelines that are not even yours,'" Hak said.

An emergency clean-up service sanitized the basement and cut out the carpet and drywall. Hak then made a claim against Epcor for the damages.

But Hak was told the $5,800 bill to repair his basement was his responsibility, even though the broken pipe was on public property.

"We got very, very frustrated," Hak said. "And we couldn't do anything about it."

Epcor confirmed a sewage pipe broke on public property outside Hak's home on April 8. But under Edmonton's drainage bylaw, the city-owned utility says the customer is still responsible for any damage to their private property.

"The reason for that is to ensure property owners have enough insurance in place," said Epcor spokesperson Kelly Struski..

"Having damage to private property covered under personal property insurance helps to avoid placing an unreasonable burden on all ratepayers." 

But Hak says his insurance won't cover sewer damage caused by a third party. 

Councillor to bring motion on the issue

Frustrated by the response from Epcor, Hak scheduled a meeting in early July with his city councillor, Jon Dziadyk. 

The councillor agreed: something didn't add up. 

"If it's deemed not the homeowner's fault, and the public utility fails, I think it should be the case that the homeowner is not on the hook for that bill to clean it up," Dziadyk said. 

The councillor plans to bring a motion before city council on August 27, directing city staff to prepare a report looking into claims for damage to private property related to failed Epcor-owned drainage infrastructure. 

The draft motion, shared with CBC News, asks city staff to work with Epcor to tally the number of claims paid and denied, as well as the total amount paid out. 

"We expect that services will be provided without failure and when there is a failure, you'd expect reasonable recourse," Dziadyk said. 

Coun. Jon Dziadyk plans to bring a motion before city council this month, directing staff to look into claims for private property related to the failure of city-owned drainage infrastructure. (City of Edmonton)

Dziadyk says the motion is possibly the first stage in a larger conversation about the drainage bylaw. But at its core, it's about gathering information. 

"I get the impression that it's happening to more people than just the one constituent that reached out to me," Dziadyk said. 

"How often are public utilities failing and we're having the homeowner being held responsible when in many ways it seems like it shouldn't be their fault?" 

Hak, the homeowner, has been asking himself the same question. He says the experience with Epcor has been stressful and disappointing. 

"We're not asking for anything out of the ordinary," Hak said. "All we're saying is please restore our basement to the way it was prior to the damage that occurred on a city pipe that Epcor is responsible for — that's all."

With files from Anna McMillan and Jordan Omstead