“Extensive damage”: City faces lawsuit over sewage backup in social housing buildings

The Peterborough Housing Corporation is suing the city and two construction companies for $300,000 over a 2021 sewage backup that flooded several apartments and displaced multiple people from their homes.
A sewage backup that damaged two social housing buildings, including 526 McDonnel Street (pictured), is at the centre of a lawsuit between the City of Peterborough and its housing agency. (Photo: Brett Throop)

A sewage backup that flooded two Peterborough social housing complexes in 2021 was the result of “negligence” by the City of Peterborough and two construction companies it hired, according to a lawsuit by the city’s social housing agency.

The Peterborough Housing Corporation is demanding $300,000 in damages from the city, Dufferin Construction Company and Matheson Constructors over the sewage backup, according to the lawsuit, filed in a Toronto court last month.

The July 2021 incident caused flooding in eight basement apartments, an elevator pit, a common area and shared bathrooms at two PHC-owned buildings, 553 Bonaccord Street and 526 McDonnel Street, according to the statement of claim. Compass Early Learning and Care, a daycare centre located at 553 Bonaccord, was also damaged, the statement said.

At least six people were displaced from their homes for about a month while repairs were made, a PHC staff person told the agency’s board of directors in September 2021.

The “extensive damage” to the buildings was the result of “negligence, want of care, breach of duty and breach of contract” on the part of the city and the construction companies, which were hired to do road work in the area, PHC claims. The lawsuit alleges that Dufferin and Matheson employees left construction debris in manholes and sewer drains in the area, leading to the sewage backup. It also accuses the companies of “hiring incompetent and inexperienced employees” for the work they were contracted to do.

Meanwhile, the city neglected to remove the debris and otherwise maintain its manholes and sewer drains, according to the lawsuit. The city also failed to respond to initial calls about the sewer backup because it had determined that they were related to “a private property issue,” the statement of claim said.

PHC is a “stand-alone corporation” that provides social housing in the city and county of Peterborough, according to its website. While not a direct arm of the municipal government, the City of Peterborough is the corporation’s sole shareholder and it is governed by a board of directors made up of city councillors and a member of Peterborough county council.

PHC and the City of Peterborough both declined to comment. Dufferin’s parent company, CRH Canada, did not respond to Currents’ request for comment on the lawsuit.

John Miceli, Matheson’s business development manager, said the company had received no notice of the lawsuit when reached by Currents last Thursday. “To our knowledge there has been no action against Matheson,” he said.

He added that Matheson had a contract for road resurfacing, but had not begun the work when the sewage backup happened.


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