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Burnaby school board sues construction firms over Alpha Secondary leak

The Burnaby school board is suing three construction companies for a leak from a water heater at Alpha Secondary School. The board alleges the copper elbow of a pipe was left uninsulated and exposed to freezing temperatures before the leak.
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Burnaby’s Board of Education is suing three companies stemming from a hot water heater leak at a local high school.

The Burnaby Board of Education is suing three companies involved in the partial replacement and seismic upgrade at Alpha Secondary School because of a leak from a hot water heater.

Unitech Construction Management Ltd. was the construction manager for the extensive Alpha project, while Triwest Mechanical Ltd. was the mechanical contractor and Advantage Thermal Service Ltd. was a subcontractor hired to complete insulation work, according to a notice of civil claim filed by the school board in B.C. Supreme Court Thursday, Oct. 19.

The project started in late 2016 and was completed in late 2018 and early 2019, the claim says.

On or about December 27, 2021, however, a water heater located in a classroom sprang a leak, causing water to escape into that classroom and several others, causing damage to walls, ceiling tiles, custom millwork and "various contents" inside the classrooms, according to the claim.

The school board alleges the leak was caused by a fracture in the copper elbow of the water-heater pipe, which it claims wasn't insulated and had been exposed to freezing temperatures prior to the leak.

The construction manager and consultants owed the board a duty of care, according to the claim, and they breached it by failing to ensure no water-heater piping was left uninsulated and exposed once the project was done.

The defendants also owed the board a duty to warn it of any defects or deficiencies in the insulation of the water-heater piping, the claim says.

The board claims it suffered loss, damage and expense because of the leak, including costs to repair and remediate the areas damaged by the leak, costs to replace contents damaged and destroyed by the leak, the cost of investigating the leak and the cost of consulting fees associated with the repair and remediation.

The board argues Unitech, Triwest and Advantage are "jointly and severally liable" for the damages and is suing for unspecified general and special damages, interest, legal costs and "such further and other relief" as the court may deem just.

The board's allegations have not been proven in court.

None of the defendants has yet filed a response to the claim.

The temperature on Dec. 27, 2021, reached -14°C, according to Environment Canada data.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor
Email cnaylor@burnabynow.com