Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Few claims paid out by city

Only 15 people compensated for brown water damage

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Brown water fills a bathroom sink in a North End home last September.

ADAM WAZNY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Brown water fills a bathroom sink in a North End home last September. Photo Store

A North Kildonan woman and a city councillor say they don't understand why civic officials have restricted settlements for brown water damage claims to a three-month window of 2013.

Rose Pelland said she filed two claims to the city after her laundry was damaged in incidents in September 2012 and again in May 2013 and both were rejected.

"It seems to me that the city only began paying claims when the mayor said he had brown water," Pelland said. "Why were the brown water claims before August 2013 not as valid as those between August and October 2013?"

Civic officials this week confirmed the city has settled only 15 claims for laundry damaged by brown water last year but the claims period is only from Aug. 1 to Oct. 31, 2013.

A civic spokeswoman said each claim was for less than $50.

Coun. Dan Vandal said he doesn't understand why the city isn't still recognizing claims filed after Oct. 31.

Vandal, who is credited with convincing council to reverse a provision in the City Charter, which absolves the city from any responsibility for damages caused by discoloured water, said Aug. 1 was the start date because it's believed that was when the number of claims spiked.

Vandal said he doesn't support an end date, adding he'll be pursuing the issue with Mayor Sam Katz and the public works committee.

The city has been plagued by sporadic outbreaks of discoloured water for several years but the numbers doubled in 2013 and civic officials were unable to explain why -- even after hiring two consultants to look into the issue.

Before Vandal raised the claims issue in September, city staff rejected every claim for compensation outright. Council agreed that was wrong.

Vandal said a report on the cause of the brown water problem is due this month.

A City of Winnipeg spokeswoman said the city received a total of 277 discoloured water damage claims for 2013 but only considered 150, involving damaged laundry between Aug. 1 and Oct. 31.

Of the 150 laundry claims, the city has settled with 15 individuals, paying out less than $50 for each claim.

Of the other claimants, 48 did not meet the city's criteria necessary to qualify; 66 chose not to pursue the matter and 21 claims remain outstanding.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 11, 2014 B2

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