The City of Saskatoon has filed a lawsuit against a pair of companies over an incident that forced people in a northeast neighbourhood to live for months off a temporary water supply.
A statement of claim filed Nov. 23 at Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench alleges Mueller Water Products Inc. and Wolseley Canada Inc. should have known they were supplying the Aspen Ridge neighbourhood with faulty fire hydrants.
An order was issued in January for 19 homes in Aspen Ridge to stop using the regular water supply after a black, oil-like substance was found in fire hydrants in the area. Temporary water supplies and lines to homes were installed while the city figured out how to get rid of the problem. The order wasn’t lifted until September.
Contaminated hydrants were also found in other new neighbourhoods in May, affecting the water supply at the Highway 16 Costco.
The court filing, delivered by the city solicitor’s office, claims Mueller Water Products Inc. manufactured the hydrants and sold them to Wolseley Canada Inc. — a wholesaler that provided the hydrants to local companies working on developing Aspen Ridge.
“Mueller and/or Wolseley knew, or ought to have known, that the hydrants would be connected to the city’s potable water system, but failed to warn the city of the potential for contamination,” the claim reads.
The lawsuit also alleges Mueller “failed to provide any information, procedures, or techniques that could minimize the risk.”
The City of Saskatoon further claims Wolseley Canada failed to ensure the hydrants met “required specifications,” and that the company failed to use “reasonable care and skill” in inspecting, maintaining and transporting the hydrants.
None of the claims in the city’s lawsuit have been proven in court.
Mueller didn’t respond to a request for comment from 650 CKOM, while Wolseley’s legal department declined comment.
The city is claiming losses in excess of $1 million due to the costs of “inspecting the water system, cleaning up the contamination, setting up temporary water lines, providing water, retaining experts to investigate the source of the contamination, identifying the substance and remediating the water system.”
More damages are expected to be claimed at trial.
Both Mueller and Wolseley have 30 days to respond to the statement of claim.
TIMELINE OF CONTAMINATION
The statement of claim also provides a clearer timeline of how city staff discovered the oil-like substance and attempted to clean up the problem.
It notes the hydrocarbon was first discovered in December 2016 in Phase 2 of the Aspen Ridge development, where no homes were completed.
“A black substance was observed on the ball valve in the water sampling port on two Mueller Modern Centurion fire hydrants during water sampling,” the claim reads.
From that point, Phase 2 of Aspen Ridge was physically isolated from where people were already living in Phase 1.
The claim states further testing showed nine of the 12 Mueller hydrants installed in Phase 2 were contaminated, and the substance had leaked into the lines leading to the water main — with some cases of contamination also found in the main.
The city contacted the provincial Water Security Agency (WSA) about the possible contamination in October 2017. The WSA told the city the water system couldn’t be used and they were required to inspect other nearby hydrants and either “remove and replace all affected infrastructure or hire an engineering consultant to advise the city on remediation.”
Contamination was found in Phase 1 in January 2018 during further inspection of the hydrants, prompting the city to order residents there not to use the water.
The city hired Stantec Consulting to analyze the substance and develop a remediation plan. A Stantec toxicologist determined the public water supply was still safe to drink according to Canadian guidelines and the temporary water supply was removed in September 2018.
The city’s statement of claim states the “full extent of contaminated Mueller hydrants within the City of Saskatoon is not yet known.”