From The Gazette

Kirkland

Crossed-pipe problem costs Kirkland $1 million

City-wide inspections and a subsequent repair reimbursement policy for cross-connected drain pipes will cost Kirkland about $1 million, city manager Joe Sanalitro stated last week.

Sanalitro said inspections of all 6,600 homes in Kirkland, which were carried out over the past few summers by university engineering students, have almost all been completed. He added that about 200 homes where found to have crossed pipes, with almost all repairs being carried out already.

However, he said there are about eight outstanding cases where the homeowners either refused inspectors entry or were not reachable for one reason or another. Although the city had enacted a bylaw last year requiring homeowners to allow inspectors to carry out their work, Sanalitro said, the city is simply discussing the situation with the owners of the homes yet to be inspected and no legal action is planned.

“We’re having trouble getting in, communicating, making them understand what the program is about,” he told The Gazette. “They don’t know if (the pipes) are crossed. We don’t know but we have to get in there. We’re working on a one-on-one basis.”

While it’s not clear if any of these remaining homes have crossed-pipe problems or not, he doesn’t anticipate it would add much more than about $50,000 to the estimated $1-million bill for the city’s inspection/repair reimbursement program.

The city will pay a maximum of $5,000 for repair costs at most homes affected by the pipe problem, including any related landscaping work, and has set a deadline of the end of June for homeowners to submit invoices for reimbursement.

The contentious pipe-repair issue came to the forefront in early 2011 when an initial group of 49 homeowners were told they must fix their cross-connected pipes at their own expense. After heated debates with residents who packed council meetings, six months later the city opted for a reimbursement policy of up to $1,800. Later, after acknowledging it had paid for crossed-pipe repairs at some homes decades ago, the city announced its current policy last August.

The city has maintained the crossed pipes are the responsibility of homeowners and it is only offering funding because it’s an environmental issue. It has been established that the crossed-pipe problem, which led to raw sewage contaminating nearby waterways, dated back to the early-1970s at some homes.

In early 2010, a group of Beaconsfield residents lobbied Kirkland to take action on the crossed pipes because it is believed the raw sewage emanating from these homes emptied into the Meadowbrook stream, then flowed into Lake St. Louis near Centennial Park.

Meanwhile, Sanalitro said the $1-million figure does take into account any legal fees that may be associated with the crossed-pipe issue.

Last month, city officials informed residents that financial figures related to specific legal files can be kept confidential and that it will not divulge any fees paid for court cases or for obtaining legal opinions.

Last year, the city lost a defamation lawsuit against blogger Sergei Brovkin regarding posts related to pipe-repair costs. The city also took legal action against two homeowners for not carrying out repairs after being notified about the problem. The latter cases were dropped after the residents carried out the required repairs last May.

The city had also cited legal opinions it had used to back up council’s policies regarding the dossier.

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