Water leaked capped but St. Lazare resident says town should pay for shut-off valve installation


PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

A recently installed water shut-off valve pokes up from the ground in front of a burnt-out house on Chemin Ste. Angélique on November 1. Resident Susan Clarke says the town of St. Lazare should reimburse residents for the installation cost.

A water leak on Rue Gosselin near the intersection of Chemin Ste. Angélique in St. Lazare has finally been capped two months after an underground pipe broke, Your Local Journal has learned.

Ghislain Castonguay, Project Manager for the town’s infrastructure department, said the leak was shut off on October 30 after work to install individual shut-off valves to four properties on Ste. Angélique was completed at the same time.

The situation began in late August. Water began flowing to the surface from a damaged pipe underneath a garage adjacent to a house on the corner of Gosselin Street and Chemin Ste. Angélique that was damaged by a fire about one month earlier.

Efforts to stop the leak were hampered because the property owner never responded to calls and emails sent by town. The town couldn’t take action because the affected area was on private property.

Even if the city managed to shut off the leak by going onto the property, five adjacent properties would not have had any water because their water pipes were all connected to the underground pipe at the burnt out property. None of the properties had their own shut-off valves.

Shut-off valves installed

The new shut-off valves were installed to rectify the problem. Other property owners in the immediate area are prone to the same problem. Clusters of three or four houses are connected to a single water source at one house. If a leak occurs at a house with the main connection and the water is turned off, the other homeowners would also not have any water.

This happened to Ben Pownall and Susan Clarke on August 30 when they discovered water was seeping onto their property on Gosselin at the corner of Rue du Marquis. The couple called the town to advise them about the problem. Town officials told them there was a leak from a broken pipe on their property.

They were told if they shut off their water valve, it would affect the three adjacent houses, said Clarke. The water could only be turned off if Clarke and their three neighbours all had their own individual shut-off valves installed and connected to the town’s water main.

$2,000 cost

Clarke and Pownall agreed but balked at the $2,000 cost. They said because the valve was installed on municipal property it was town’s responsibility to absorb the cost. “The city is responsible for their property, which is the first 10 feet from the road,” said Pownall.

They later learned that many municipalities apparently pay for the cost of installing a shut-off value. Clarke said they did research online at the town’s website but didn’t find any information. They did, however, find a program on another municipal website along with an application form for reimbursement.

Reimbursement refused

They submitted their completed application at St. Lazare City Hall and it was accepted, Clarke said. In an English translation of an email reply from the town dated October 12, the town then refused to accept the couple’s claim.

A portion of the email stated: “Pursuant to the results of an internal investigation carried out in collaboration with our coworkers in the Infrastructure Department and considering that you failed to claim within the 15-day delay allowed under section 585 of the Cities and Towns Act, RLRQ c. C-19, the Town of Saint-Lazare hereby denies all responsibility for the alleged damages claimed in your writ.”

Clarke said the town’s reply implies they could have been reimbursed if their claim was filed within the 15-day deadline. She also alleges that when the municipal employees came to install the shut-off without notice, they demanded the $2,000 payment immediately and did not mention a claim could have been filed with the town.

Claude Boursier who lives on Ste. Angélique was not aware of any reimbursement process from the town. Boursier added neither they, nor their next-door neighbour, were never even told in advance the town would install shut-off valves on their properties.

“They just came and began working,” said Boursier. “They said it would cost $2,000 for the valve and we would also have to pay for the connection to our house.”

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