FILE -- A roadway is washed out following a massive rainfall in May 2012.
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About 1,900 property owners are being informed that the city is not liable for property damaged during the May 28, 2012 rain storms.
In a news release issued Thursday afternoon, the city says SCS Insurance Adjusters have conducted an investigation and concluded the city has no liability or responsibility for any property loss.
The news release goes on to explain that Thunder Bay has never before received so much rain in such a short time frame.
“There was simply too much water for the Municipal system to handle even with excess capacity at the water pollution control Plant of 10 times normal flows. This resulted in a provincial disaster declaration for the city last year.”
Letters, which were the city’s response to claims by property owners, were mailed Tuesday.
The news won't stop a $300-million class-action lawsuit from going forward, a lawyer for about 400 plaintiffs said upon learning the city's response.
Sandy Zaitzeff said the letters sent out by the city amount to little more than intimidation.
"It's clear this is a very poor attempt to confuse people, intimidate people and stop people from joining the lawsuit. And shame on the city for this," Zaitzeff said.
He took issue with much of what the city claimed.
"They were either mistruths or half truths and the city isn't putting forward the entire position. For instance, this is not the largest rainstorm that the city has ever had and the plant has survived bigger rainstorms than this many times," said Zaitzeff, who said the lawsuit could hit the courts as early as December and likely no later than next spring.
Zaitzeff said he has four plant operators, including two who have worked at the Thunder Bay plant, ready to testify on their behalf that the water control plant should have easily been able to handle the plant during the storm, with at most 100 houses facing sewage back-up issues.
"Not two or three thousand, as we have," he said.
City manager Tim Commisso in the release stated the city had done its due diligence last year when the storm hit.
“The city acted appropriately at all times before, during and after the rain storm of May 28,” he says, summarizing the investigation. “The unprecedented rain storm was the cause of the unfortunate losses that affected property owners including the city.”
Zaitzeff said the city had plenty of warning of the amount of rain that was called for that weekend, and despite two warnings from the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority, chose to ignore the threat.
Commisso had no comment in response to Zaitzeff's claims, saying it's a legal issue.
He did say the results of the investigation are not a surprise and were in line with reports released and discussed last December.
"This is in keeping with what we had found through that investigation," he said.
"What we were really focused on was responding to the storm and trying to help those in particular that didn't have insurance through the Safe Homes program and also subsequently through the (Disaster Relief Committee) but we recognize there were a lot of people affected by it," Commisso added.
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