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In Thunder Bay, A Plague of Plumbing Problems is Not a Municipal Priority

In Thunder Bay, A Plague of Plumbing Problems is Not a Municipal Priority

By Livio Di Matteo

 

THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO ~~~~~  October 17, 2020 (LSN)  t would appear that Thunder Bay City Council is still maintaining its cone of silence regarding the plague of plumbing problems that have afflicted numerous homeowners, not to mention businesses and other institutions in the city.  Residents are growing increasingly frustrated by the silence in light of evidence that hundreds if not thousands of households across the city have been hit by leaks in their indoor copper plumbing and in many cases leaks in their city connection line to the water main.  The expense for some homeowners is running in the tens of thousands of dollars including the hundreds of dollars in fees that the City is charging to shut off and turn back on water at the shutoff valves in order to effect repairs.

 

Thunder Bay has had a long history of water system and supply issues and this is the latest installment in what is going to be a very expensive saga.  Given that these issues have emerged in the wake of the addition of sodium hydroxide to the water supply to combat lead pipes affecting about 8,700 residents in older neighborhoods, the reluctance of the City to comment is understandable.  Correlation is not necessarily causation, but the timing of the leaks in the wake of the sodium hydroxide addition is more than suspicious. On the other hand, there needs to be some public effort made to deal with the problems and the business as usual approach of the City and the accompanying silence of the mayor and councillors is not what our government should be doing.  We do not elect our politicians to ignore us.

The Mayor and Council are our elected representatives and their silence in what are now twin pandemics – COVID and the plumbing plague – essentially is leaving many of us on our own to deal with these issues while they pursue business as usual.  Indeed, this week the Mayor apparently lobbied the provincial government on community needs that included: Bombardier, operating funding to offset 2021 COVID-19 costs and lost revenues, infrastructure funding, and funding for additional hires for long-term care and to cover increased costs associated with COVID-19.  Nowhere was there public acknowledgement during this “important opportunity to advocate for our community” of the woes of so many local homeowners and residents.  The public needs to know that their municipal government is looking out for them and it becomes apparent that they do not have our back – unless it is to use it to carry the load of increased taxes to fund their priorities.

It would help immensely to know if there is anything we can do as homeowners to preemptively deal with the leaky pipe problem.  Are some neighborhoods affected more than others?  Is it a function of the age of your homes?  What signs should we be on the lookout for to catch the problem early? Are houses near corners more susceptible as some observations suggest?  Is proximity to pumping stations a factor in terms of water pressure or the amount of sodium hydroxide that was released? Instead, we are left with cobbling together evidence from rumor and social media of which the most important contribution to date is a Facebook page under the title of the Thunder Bay Leaky Pipe Club that now has nearly 700 members.

In the absence of publicly available evidence from the City in terms of incidence and distribution, we are left to our own devices.  For example, based on the above Facebook Page discussions it would appear that the leaks are occurring all over the city, even in newer subdivisions such as Parkdale.  However, there are particular concentrations in Northwood, River Terrace/Fairbanks, John Street and Valleywood areas. Indeed, a drive down James Street in Northwood a few weeks ago suggested that there was either a lot of landscaping being done or there has been a veritable plague of leaky pipes.  In the River Terrace neighborhood off John Street – a subdivision of about 200 homes – based on the dug-up lawns and the neighborhood stories – there have been 40 homes affected. 

 

That is a 20 percent rate.  There are about 50,000 private households in Thunder Bay which suggests that this problem may eventually affect 10,000 property owners. True, extrapolating from one subdivision of 200 to the entire city is not good science but given the absence of any official information it is the only analysis we can do.  In the absence of numbers from the City as to how much of a problem this is, we are left to wonder who is going to be next and how much it is going to cost.  Not only are most of us working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, but now we also have to worry that we will be flooded out and hit with a ten-thousand-dollar bill.  As if there were not enough mental health issues in Thunder Bay.

So, here it is.  In Thunder Bay right now, based on the homicide rate, you have about a 7 in 100,000 chance of being murdered – in percent terms that is just over one-half of one percent.  if you get COVID-19, you have about a 1 percent chance of dying from it given the numbers to date – 109 cases and 1 death.  However, if you own a home in Thunder Bay, you have a 20 percent change of leaky pipes occurring and a plumbing bill that can range anywhere from a few hundred to many thousands of dollars.  Why is this not a priority?  How the Mayor and Council can still look at themselves in the mirror in the morning is beyond me. 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Northern Economist blog started on Shaw Webspace as commentary and analysis of economic issues and policy from a Northern Ontario perspective by Livio Di Matteo, Professor of Economics at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. It had regular posts from November 2010 to February 2012. Posts continued on Northern Economist 2.0 until 2013 when I took an extended break. Occasional posts resumed effective December 2016. With Shaw terminating its blog space functions, I have archived the old posts at: northerneconomistarchive.blogspot.ca.

  • 17 October 2020
  • Author: Livio Di Matteo
  • Number of views: 5128
  • Comments: 0
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