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Oak Bay taxpayers likely to foot part of flood bill

Nov 22 2012
Some of damage evident in a bedroom at the Bradshaw household, as a section of Bowker Avenue in Oak Bay was flooded due to a broken water main on Tuesday. 

Some of damage evident in a bedroom at the Bradshaw household, as a section of Bowker Avenue in Oak Bay was flooded due to a broken water main on Tuesday.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam , timescolonist.com

Oak Bay taxpayers will likely pay a portion of restoration costs after a broken water line flooded a residential neighbourhood and forced the evacuation of nearly an entire block.

The water line burst during a routine fire hydrant replacement about 9 a.m.

Tuesday, swamping most of the 2200 block Bowker Avenue, off Eastdowne Road.

Homes were still without power Wednesday evening as residents got through the first day of cleanup efforts and assessed damage.

Costs could be at least $50,000 for Pete Andrew, a tree faller who drove home from Port McNeil after seeing his house on the television news Tuesday night.

"I'm pretty sure Oak Bay's ... going to take care of quite a bit of [the cost]," he said, standing in the nearly empty basement suite where his daughter lived.

Just 24 hours before, couches and boxes of Christmas decorations were floating on about a metre of water.

Neighbours and firefighters used generators to pump water out of basements on Tuesday, allowing restoration crews inside homes on Wednesday.

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen recognizes taxpayers will likely have to pay for a share of damage to homes.

"That will come later, in terms of how the cost of the damages are shared between private insurance and the municipality," he said.

Oak Bay's emergency fund provides three nights of accommodation for evacuees who could not return home.

About a dozen homes were hit by water damage, including three suites in an apartment building. A handful of residents may not be able to return home for weeks.

Zoe Bradshaw's home was one of the hardest hit, with early damage estimates reaching about $40,000. Bradshaw, who lives with partner Martin Scaia and their three children, covered her eyes with a trembling hand as she stood in her backyard, watching crews document the damage.

The children's bedrooms in the basement were destroyed, with beds and furniture sopping wet. Scaia is an independent builder and all the tools in his shed were destroyed by the water.

"[The water] just kept coming and coming and coming and coming and didn't stop," Bradshaw said.

Restoration could take up to eight weeks, adding to the family's anxiety.

"It stinks upstairs, it's unbelievable how much it stinks," Bradshaw said.

"I don't know what we're going to do. Where are we supposed to stay?"

Neighbours criticized Oak Bay's public works crew for not calling in firefighters until more than two hours after the water-line break.

The fire department called in B.C. Hydro to turn off the power.

Jensen has asked his staff to conduct a full review of what happened, but early assessments indicate homes were flooding within half an hour.

"We'll look for things we can do better and change our policy and practices accordingly," Jensen said.

B.C. Hydro will restore power once inspectors deem it safe to do so.

dspalding@timescolonist.com

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