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Burnaby resident fuming as city won’t cover cost of sewage damage caused by its system

City will only pay for homeowner's cost to identify where blockage was coming from
bathroom marlies sewage
The incident happened in October of 2021 and the resident is still fighting with the city because it will only cover part of the cost associated with the damage.

A Burnaby resident is furious the city won’t cover all of the costs associated with damage caused from a “blockage” in the municipal drainage system that flooded part of their home with sewage.

The resident doesn’t want their name used in the story, but has backed up the claims with documentation that includes an official “letter of decision” from a City of Burnaby claims and risk specialist.

The incident happened in October of 2021 and the resident is still fighting with the city because it will only cover part of the cost associated with the damage.

The resident detailed a “serious” plumbing problem in their downstairs bathroom in which sewage was backing up all over the floor. The resident paid for a plumber to investigate.

“Only when the plumber went outside on city property (Stoney Creek) did he find sewage seeping out of the manhole,” the resident said.

The city was then contacted and it dispatched a crew to the site. The plumber was brought back to use a camera inside the drainage system to mark the spot of the issue, which was caused by roots from trees on city property.

The city has agreed to pay for the cost of using a camera to identify the problem, but has refused to pay for the full plumber’s bill or the cost of cleanup and renovations to fix damage caused by the sewage.

“I am very frustrated because the flooring also needs to be replaced,” the resident said. “The water and sewage has penetrated underneath the linoleum, which needs to be replaced due to the smell, moisture and unsanitary condition. Water and sewage had to be cleaned up by me and long afterwards the smell was horrible.”

According to the letter the resident received from the city, Section 744 of the Local Government Act provides that a municipality has “no liability for damages (physical loss or expense incurred) arising from the failure of the municipal drainage system. The City responded and took actions immediately after the service call was received; therefore, the City is not negligent in this matter and has no legal liability to the property owner or their insurers for the damages/expenses incurred in this case. However, City policy as it relates to sewer expense reimbursement actually extends somewhat beyond liability and so the City is able to reimburse the reasonable expense incurred to locate the source of a blockage on the City side but only if the blockage is caused by a crushed or broken pipe within the road allowance or by the roots of City planted trees within the road allowance. In this case, the blockage was found on the City side and roots caused the blockage were from trees on the City’s land. The City is willing to reimburse the camera inspection fee that you have paid to the plumbing company.”

The resident said they are considering legal action.

Residents living in the Stoney Creek area of Burquitlam have long complained about sewage bubbling up from manhole covers and leaching into the creek and onto their properties. Multiple levels of government are working on long-term plans to deal with the situation.