Orangeville Council to look into long-term drainage issues in town’s west end

January 28, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

Orangeville Council has vowed to do its part to help an elderly resident overcome a long-term water drainage issue that is plaguing his property in the community’s west end. 

Addressing Council on Monday, Terry Lewis stated a sustained rise in the water table at his Still Court home had caused cracking in his foundation walls, brick work and basement slab floor. Upon researching the issue, he discovered the problem dates all the way back to the construction of the subdivision in the 1980s.

At that time, the property developer, presumably running into issues with the area’s unusually high water level, installed a plastic drainage pipe to enable builders to properly install housing foundations. Upon completion of the subdivision, the pipe was left behind and, since the Town didn’t know it existed, went unserviced for decades. 

The issue was first brought to the attention of Orangeville Council back in 2009 when multiple homeowners along Meadow Drive and Still Court complained about water leaking into their homes. After some investigation, it appeared there was correlation between the flooding and the Town shutting down one of its municipal wells for maintenance. 

Citing a report carried out by an international consulting firm in 2010, Doug Jones, the Town’s General Manager of Infrastructure Services, went on to explain that correlation.

“The report (Council commissioned) concluded that the groundwater levels in the area of the houses on Meadow Drive and Still Court were influenced by the operation of Orangeville’s Well 7. Specifically, when Well 7 is in operation, the groundwater table is artificially lowered, decreasing the impact of groundwater on the homes in question,” Mr. Jones stated in his report to Council.

“When the houses on Meadow Drive were built in the late 1980’s, the builder presumably installed a perforated drain pipe in, or adjacent to, the rear yards of the homes that are experiencing the groundwater leakage problem… While the drain pipe is in an easement, it was designed to be a surface drain easement. The easement was not designed for this pipe. It wasn’t something we knew was there and, in all likelihood, was improperly designed, which is why there are issues today.”

Back in 2011, the council of the day decided to take action on this issue and fix the drainage problem, provided homeowners in the area signed a release form highlighting various conditions. Most notable among those conditions was that the Town would provide no warranty or guarantee that replacing the pipe will fix or affect any water issues homeowners were experiencing at the time or may later experience, specifically as it related to flooding. The release also stated that any further work homeowners feel is required to rectify water issues in their home would be the responsibility of the homeowner, and not fall on the Town.

All but one homeowner in the area agreed to sign. Unfortunately, Mr. Jones stated the Town’s insurer at the time advised the municipality not to carry out the work unless all homeowners signed the release. In the end, nothing was done to rectify the issue.

While Mr. Lewis recognizes the position of the Town on the issue, he asked if some sort of compromise could be made to carry out the work. He advised that the individual who decided against signing the release back in 2011 is still refusing to give his consent today.

“This is becoming a real problem for me. My sump pump is discharging at a rate of every 126 seconds. It’s spitting out over 14,000 litres per day,” Mr. Lewis said. “Mr. Jones indicated the old resolution put forward in 2011 was still on the table, but the same gentleman who declined to sign previously has said he will not sign now, so it would seem we are at an impasse.”

He added, “I came here this evening with a wish and a request – a request to have the contentious resolution put forward in 2011 revoked and a wish for Council to enact a new resolution to repair the pipe.”

He asked that Council consider simply adopting the pipe installed by the developer at the time of construction and carry out the necessary work to repair it.

Council appeared to be sympathetic, with Mayor Sandy Brown noting he used to live on Still Court and as such is well aware of the water issues. He asked Mr. Jones if there was a way for the municipality to do anything without consent of every homeowner in the area. Mr. Jones noted the Town’s lawyers had advised against completing the work without 100 percent consent. 

Coun. Debbie Sherwood said the Town needs to take “some type of ownership or responsibility” over this issue, asking staff to put together a report providing further detail on the issue.

“This is an issue that has been going on for more than a decade. We can tell from the statistics that this is worsening. It won’t get better unless we find a resolution,” Ms. Sherwood said. “Even though the Town was not aware of the pipe being installed, this is a bit of a grey line for me. We should have been mindful of what was happening as the subdivision was being developed.”

She continued, “I would ask that staff bring back a report to give a little more detail so that we, hopefully, can find a resolution for the property owners so that Mr. Lewis can sleep at night and not be woken every 120 seconds by his sump pump discharging.”

Deputy Mayor Andy Macintosh made the motion requesting a report. Mr. Jones suggested he could come up with a cost estimate to complete the work, as well as seeking legal advice on how best to proceed and have a report back to Council before the end of February.

“We’re going to do what we can and hopefully the Town can help resolve this issue sooner rather than later,” Mayor Brown commented, in closing, to Mr. Lewis.

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