West Island man’s toilet explodes while city crew cleans sewers

A Beaconsfield man has been repairing his bathroom for the last month, after his toilet exploded while city crews were outside his home cleaning the sewer with high-pressure hoses.

Robert Pentney’s bathroom in his Beaconsfield home was covered in sewage from floor to ceiling

Damage from the incident forced Roberty Pentney to rip up the walls and floor of his bathroom and run dehumidifiers and air purifiers for two-and-a-half weeks. (CBC)

When Robert Pentney awoke to a foul odour filling his Beaconsfield home, he set out to find what was causing the smell. He got his answer when he opened the door to his ground-floor bathroom.

It was a disaster. It looked like someone had exploded a bomb in the toilet.- Robert Pentney, Beaconsfield homeowner

"It was a disaster. It looked like someone had exploded a bomb in the toilet," he said. 

"The place was covered from ceiling to floor with sewage — that's feces, you name it. Whatever you find in a city sewer, it came through my powder room and into the hallway of our home. The smell was absolutely horrific."

Pentney noticed a group of workers running large hoses into the sewers outside his home.

Robert Pentney awoke on Oct. 6 to a horrible smell. He found his bathroom covered in feces and sewage from floor to ceiling. (Photo courtesy of Robert Pentney)

He got dressed, ran to speak to them, and told them to stop what they were doing. When he convinced a worker to come into home, the man was shocked.

"He said he had never seen anything like this before. He told me at that point that they had blown air through the system at a very high pressure to the point where they had to turn it down," he said.

The mess from the Oct. 6 incident meant Pentney had to rip up the walls and floor of his bathroom and run dehumidifiers and air purifiers for two-and-a-half weeks.

Still under repairs

The sewage leaked from the bathroom into ground-floor hallway of Robert Pentney's Beaconsfield home. (Photo courtesy of Robert Pentney)

More than a month later, Pentney’s bathroom is still under repair. Because of a special bylaw protecting the City of Beaconsfield from being pursued for work done by sub-contractors, Pentney's insurance company is filing his claim directly with that company.

"The City of Beaconsfield has assumed no responsibility for this," said Pentney, who thinks there's a potential link between the backup in his toilet and the pollution recently reported by CBC Montreal in Beaconsfield's nearby St. James creek.

The creek runs through several backyards, snaking through Pointe-Claire and Beaconsfield before emptying into Lac Saint-Louis.

Tests of water carried out this October from the mouth of the creek revealed the level was at 4,500 units of fecal coliform per 100 millilitres. A fecal coliform of 1000 units per 100 millilitres is considered polluted.

"It might be possible that it has something to do with the work being done. The question is whether there's any damage to the sewer system. When sewers are being cleaned under high pressure, if the integrity of the structure isn't there, it could easily end up in the water," said Pentney.

Murray Borenstein, the owner of Borenstein Plumbing and Heating in Lachine, said he's heard of sewage being pushed into houses by pressure cleaning, but that most homes have a backwater valve that can handle the pressure.

Beaconsfield officials wouldn't comment, citing "legal claims pending" against the company subcontracted to do the sewer cleaning for the city.

Beaconsfield’s director general Patrice Boileau told CBC that to help prevent sewage backup, all homes in the municipality are required to have backwater valves.