Sewage dispute headed to court
Shondra Nauth hopes 10-year fight against city ends with Toronto buying her soiled home
A North York resident who sued the city after her basement flooded 18 times in eight years is finally getting her day in court.
Citing unsuccessful mediation, Shondra Nauth says her case is being brought before a judge in October. The lawsuit asks for the city to cover the costs of the repairs to the various damages at her property, her expenses as a result and during each of the backups, as well as her lawyer fees.
The claims are explained over five and a half pages.
“I’m going to pressure them to buy the house from me now,” Nauth said.
This news also comes two years after the publication of a City of Toronto ombudsman report, titled No Time To Waste, examining Nauth’s issue.
Author of that report, ombudsman Fiona Crean, would not comment specifically on the case, due to the ongoing litigation, but did say any issues she deals with regarding housing are usually pretty serious.
Of Nauth’s case, she said: “Her story was dreadful. There’s no question of that.”
Among Crean’s findings was a lack of oversight by management in various city departments. She blamed this on the city not having a system in place at the time to deal with smaller works projects, which meant there was “no oversight mechanisms in place, no tracking system, no regular follow up and no project timelines.
“[Nauth]’s matter simply fell through the cracks,” Crean wrote in her report.
Among the biggest issues Crean identified was the December 2007 installation by the city of a holding tank as a temporary solution to the sewage backups. At the time of Crean’s report, she showed how the city installed the tank as a temporary solution while they worked on ideas for a permanent fix. According to Crean, Nauth had been told that fix would come in a matter of months.
Four and a half years later, no permanent solution has been put in place. City workers still come every other day to empty the holding tank. Nauth says this process takes about an hour, causes the area outside to smell like sewage, and shakes her house.
The problem has long been that the sanitary and storm sewer lines coming from the property were connected to the wrong mains, resulting in a cross connection. That cross connection allowed for backflow from the sanitary sewer into Nauth’s home.
But the point of contention has always been whether the cross connection was the fault of a city contractor or the homebuilder.
Crean’s report contained the results of a test done at Nauth’s property shortly after that backup to figure out who was to blame for the cross connection.
Quoting an email from a Toronto Water employee shortly after the test, Crean wrote that the employee confirmed the problem needed to be rectified by the city contractor who installed it in the first place. Crean’s report goes on to say the person who wrote that email explained the cross connection error was in a portion the builder would not have been able to see.
Despite this, Nauth told the Town Crier that Mayor Rob Ford and general manager for Toronto Water Lou Di Gironimo came to her house late last month and Di Gironimo told her the problem that caused the floods was not the city’s problem to deal with but was hers.
She says they offered to install a sewage pump, which would lessen the risk of a backup.
“But it’s not solving the problem, because the city will still have to come every day on top of that (to empty the holding tank),” she said. “That is not a solution. They have to buy the house from me now.”
Rob Ford’s press secretary George Christopoulos said in an email the mayor would not be commenting due to the ongoing litigation. As of press time, Di Gironimo did not respond to a request for comment.
Nauth said she sees the ongoing litigation as a poor excuse for city employees not to help her.
“For five years no one would help me,” she said. “Then I get a lawyer and they all say, ‘It’s in litigation, there’s nothing I can do.’”
In Crean’s report, she wrote that 30 months had passed since the installation of the holding tank as a temporary solution while the city worked on finding a permanent solution.
“This delay is beyond any reasonable concept of timeliness,” she wrote in the report.
Those 30 months have now turned into 54 months. Though Nauth admits the city tried to give one last solution in installing a sewage pump, she found it unacceptable and says she has one question for the city.
“How much will it cost the city to pump out that holding tank from now until I die?”
For more on where Toronto Ombudsman Fiona Crean says Toronto Water and the city failed Shondra Nauth click here.
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