Manitoba

St. James water main break flood damage should be covered by city, homeowner says

A St. James homeowner wants the city to take responsibility for a water main break that flooded his yard, garage and basement on Monday.

Yard and garage covered in ice, basement soaking wet and ground beside house washed away, David Gunson says

David Gunson's property was flooded after a water pipe broke Monday night. (David Gunson)

A St. James homeowner says he wants the city to take responsibility for a water main break that flooded his yard, garage and basement late Monday.

David Gunson said damage to his Parkview Street home from the massive water main break is so bad, he's worried he and Danielle Streilein, his fiancée, will have to postpone their June wedding.

"The backyard is covered in ice, the side of the house is washed away. The front yard is covered in ice. The garage is basically an ice rink. The basement is soaking wet," he said. 

Gunson and Streilein left home at around 9 p.m. Monday. They were in a fast-food drive-thru when they received a call from a neighbour at 9:24 p.m., he said.

"He told me it looks like there's water gushing out of your house," Gunson said. 

He returned home to the worst water main break he's ever seen, he said.

David Gunson said his backyard is covered in ice from the water main break on Monday. (David Gunson)
"It was literally like the Red River — just one big, mad rushing river down the street, out of the house, down the front lawn," he said. "Watching it happen and not being able to do anything about it was the worst part." 

He waited on the 311 water and sewer emergency line for about 25 minutes before anyone answered his call, he said. City crews showed up to look for the break in the line as he was on the phone with a 311 representative.

The leak started slowing down at around 10:30 p.m. and at around 11:30 p.m., city crews found a break outside his property, he said.

But damage was already extensive, Gunson said.

The step under David Gunson's side door was washed away from the water main break, he said. (David Gunson)
"There used to be a step just underneath the door and all the sediment basically on that one side of the house was all washed away," he said. "Patio blocks have sunk. There's a deep hole by the chimney and the garage was flooded. The backyard is flooded."

Their property is also muddy and they had to bring their dogs to a family member's house. The water in the yard was about a foot deep, he said.

The items on his basement floor were covered in an inch of water and he has yet to find out what's salvageable. 

David Gunson's yard is muddy after water from the main break flooded his property, he said. (David Gunson)
Adjusters went to the home on Tuesday but he said it will be a while before he finds out how much damage was done and what's covered by his insurance.

"There's not going to be any estimates done until the ice is melted away," he said. "By the time the yard does get fixed up and stuff, who knows, it might be fall."

'It's frustrating'

Gunson said he wants the city to cover his deductible and rising premiums. 

The water washed away the sediment at the side of David Gunson's home, he said. (David Gunson)
"I would like to see the city take responsibility for this … but it doesn't sound like that's going to happen," he said. "It's frustrating. It really is." 

A spokesperson for the City of Winnipeg said the city isn't "liable for damages caused by the breakage, malfunction or failure of any pipe, wire or meter, etc., nor for the discontinuance or interruption of the delivery or supply of water because of accident, emergency or because of necessary repairs, unless it is established that the break, malfunction or failure was the result of the negligence of the city or its employees."

The city spokesperson said if a person's property is damaged, they should contact their property insurer to determine whether they have coverage.

1920s water main

St. James Coun. Scott Gillingham said the water main that broke along St. Matthews Avenue was installed in the 1920s. 

"In talking to the department, though, they said just because it's older doesn't mean it's not as good as even some newer pipes," he said. "There are factors like soil erosion and temperature that will cause breaks."

Gillingham visited some of the flooded St. James homes Tuesday and said while he's sympathetic, the reality is the city won't cover the cost of damage to property from water mains. 

"We have infrastructure all across the city and for the city to have to begin paying for any and all damage that may occur because of a water main break, whether [it causes] property damage or damage to basements, would be a huge, huge cost," he said.

More of the city's money should go towards prioritizing spending on infrastructure, he said.

City of Winnipeg crews are cleaning up piles of ice and pools of water left behind on Tuesday from a massive water main break that happened overnight in the St. James neighbourhood. 0:59
On Wednesday morning, th
e city had received one report to 311 of property flooding since Monday, the spokesperson said.

Gunson's adjuster is looking into whether the city will pay his deductible on his insurance, he said.

Gunson and Streilein planned to get married in June but this may put their plans on hold, he said.

"Financially, timelines and everything are going to be difficult."

with files from Leif Larsen

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