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Thunder Bay Residents Fight Back with a $350 Million Lawsuit

Thunder Bay Residents Fight Back with a $350 Million Lawsuit

By Livio Di Matteo

THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO ~~~~~~  November 29, 2020 (LSN)  After months of silence on the part of their municipal government, residents of Thunder Bay affected by the leaky pipe pandemic have finally decided to launch a $350 million lawsuit against the City of Thunder Bay and have retained the services of a Toronto law firm that specializes in class action lawsuits.  Needless to say, this probably could have been avoided if the City of Thunder Bay had made some effort to acknowledge the financial hardship and inconvenience of affected property owners by rendering them some assistance.   Yet, on the advice of the City of Thunder Bay’s legal advisors, they chose to do nothing.  The result? When you have lawyers on one side telling you to do nothing, the best solution is to get a bigger lawyer.

In the end, I think a key issue here will not even be the addition of sodiumydroxide to the water per se as a lead control option but why sodium hydroxide was used rather than orthophosphate given so many other cities in Ontario use orthophosphate.  Another key issue is that after problems emerged, the city of Thunder Bay took so long to acknowledge there was even an issue and stopped adding the chemical to the water and followed up by rendering no assistance – doing and saying absolutely nothing aside from filling City coffers with additional water use and water shutoff revenues. A case in point, a pinhole leak problem became apparent in Folsom, California this summer and that city hired a consulting firm and by the fall proposed a solution.  Meanwhile, after nearly a year of leaks, Thunder Bay won’t even speak to the problems. And, this lawsuit probably does not deal with any potential health effects – physical or mental – that the addition of sodium hydroxide may cause.

The silence of the councilors on this issue is appalling given they are our elected representatives.  They remain silent because they have been advised to do so by the City of Thunder Bay’s lawyers?  Really?  They are not the board of directors of a private business – they are elected by the people to represent their constituents.  What are they thinking?  During the current pandemic do provincial premiers or the Prime Minister not publicly acknowledge the loss of life or hardship people are facing as individuals or residents of long-term care homes?  What kind of elected representatives hide behind their publicly tax funded lawyers during a time of crisis and then proceed to debate fireworks restrictions, new tourism signs, or new construction projects?  Are they inspired by popular perceptions of the legacy of Marie Antoinette?

The scale of the problem is evident from the number of people who have registered on the Leaky Pipe Club Facebook page.  Moreover, the problem is not over yet and will likely continue over the winter and into the spring.  The problem is city wide as Figure 1 (data from Thunder Bay Leaky Pipe Club poll) shows with higher incidence in the Northwood, Red River Wards and McIntyre Wards. Approximately one-third of reports are from the Northwood ward followed by 21 percent in Red River and 18 percent in McIntyre.  Of course, given the vintage of many homes in these neighborhoods, the local chatter has mentioned that it is homes from the 1970s that are to blame.  However, a reason so many homes from the 1970s have been affected is that there are so many of them in Thunder Bay.  As much as one-third of Thunder Bay’s current housing stock was built in the 1970s – particularly in the area of multi-unit dwellings like apartments.  Indeed, the $350,000 pin hole leak lawsuit filed by St. Joseph's Care Group for the PR Cook Apartments is probably the tip of the iceberg for apartments.  The other older neighborhoods all have more lead pipes - ironically, the people the sodium hydroxide was to help through lead effect mitigation.



Given the City is planning to spend over $40 million on a soccerplex and is considering a new $50 million police station, they obviously are not short of financial resources with which to provide help.  Homeowners in Thunder Bay are not only facing the prospect of catastrophic damage and the expenses for repairs, but home insurance rates will skyrocket across the city.  How is a city that is trying to attract investors reconcile a city with this infrastructure chaos as a “good place to set up business?” Obviously, the City of Thunder Bay thinks a $350 million lawsuit is fine but added onto the $375 million class action lawsuit from the 2012 flooding, one wonders what they are thinking?  Are the councilors throwing up their hands and somehow hoping the City can declare bankruptcy or the province appoints an administrator to bail them out? Is it time for the province to take over and defund Thunder Bay City Council?

By: Livio Di Matteo  Updated November 26th.

Photos from the The Thunder Bay Leaky Pipe Club Facebook Page 

#LSN_TBay  #LSN_ONNews 

My photo


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:



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