Toronto

Her boyfriend was about to propose, then a contractor's mistake flooded their house with sewage

Almost a year after a contractor inadvertently dumped a load of concrete into her home's sewer pipe, backing up bucketloads of sewage into her downstairs bathroom and bedroom, Arielle Warren says she's still waiting for a settlement.

'I have a new appreciation for running water,' Arielle Warren says

Arielle Warren holds a portion of a clogged sewer pipe that a contractor had to excavate after workers next door accidentally pumped concrete into her pipes. (Alex Westgate)

Almost a year after a contractor inadvertently dumped a load of concrete into her home's sewer pipe, Arielle Warren says she's still waiting for a settlement.

The concrete clog backed up bucketloads of sewage into her downstairs bathroom and bedroom, resulting in days of messy clean-up time, as well as damage to her and her boyfriend's belongings.

But the accident caused another disruption that Arielle knew nothing about at the time: Her boyfriend, Alex Westgate, had been planning to propose that evening, a plan that was temporarily derailed by the sewer backup.

Arielle Warren shovels sewage from the basement bedroom of her home near Queen and Shaw streets last year. (Jeffrey Warren)

"As you can imagine, it was not the most romantic engagement," Arielle recalled.

"We ended up living here without plumbing for a month and half. 

"We got gym memberships to shower, and we used a camping toilet, which is a glorified bucket."

Gillam Group, the developer that's excavating the site adjacent to Warren's house, said it's in the process of dealing with Warren's claims.

"We immediately realized the issue, met with the client, had our insurance company notified and the insurance company has been dealing with the client," Gillam's executive vice president, Joel Parke, told CBC Toronto.

"I do know the insurance company is [offering] less than their amount."

Some of the mess that bubbled up through the drains in her basement after construction workers inadvertently dumped concrete into the sewer pipe of Arielle Warren's home. (Jeffrey Warren)

The problems began on Dec. 21, 2017, Warren said. Gillam had been working at a site near Queen and Shaw streets, which abuts her house on Pridham Place.

She'd just arrived home from work when she noticed the problem.

 "We heard a very loud rumbling sound, and then basically sewage and grout pushed back, popping off every single drain ... Basically every single  pipe in our house had sewage and cement backed up through it.

"You could see pieces of poo in it ... It had a chemical smell to it."

The couple immediately ran next door and told the construction crew what had happened, Warren said, and the workers stopped digging.

The scene in the basement of Arielle Warren's Pridham Place home as a contractor replaced her concrete-clogged pipes earlier this year. (Jeffrey Warren)

Then, instead of an engagement party, Warren and Westgate rolled up their sleeves and began shovelling sewage out of their basement, thinking the clean-up would be the end of their problems.

A plumber hired by her family initially told them he thought the clog was "fat," she said, and could be broken up. 

Arielle Warren's house is in a narrow laneway off Shaw Street near Queen Street West. (Mike Smee/CBC)

But their drains continued to overflow and the plumber eventually realized the clog was concrete. And it had hardened.

That created a permanent plug, and destroyed about 12 metres of sewer pipe below her house.

The couple moved into a an Airbnb for about a week, until their funds dried up. 

The construction site, on Queen Street is adjacent to Arielle Warren's property on Pridham Place. (Mike Smee/CBC)

That's when they moved back home and had to make do without running water while a contractor hired by her father got on with the expensive, disruptive job of digging up and replacing the home's sewer pipes.

That process took about two months, she says, and in the meantime "we ended up living here without plumbing ... No one wanted to come over to our house because they were so afraid they might have to use the camping toilet.

"I have a new appreciation for running water," she said.

A section of the sewer pipe filled with hardened concrete that was removed from beneath Arielle Warren's home earlier this year. (Sue Goodspeed/CBC)

All in all, Warren figures the repairs cost in excess of $45,000.

Warren says her own insurance company wanted a $1,000 deductible to deal with the problem, and threatened to hike her rate.

And the city wouldn't touch the issue, maintaining that the damaged pipe was on private property, not municipal land.

Some of the concrete-filled sewer pipes that were excavated outside Warren's house. (Jeffrey Warren)

Gillam did pass the problem on to its insurance company, Parke said.

"We just want to be compensated for the finances that my family has put into this so we can put this behind us and move forward," she said. "I think that's a realistic ask."

As for the couple's engagement? They are planning to marry in August.

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