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Residents demand action on water leaks

Rally at city hall next week organized by affected residents will demand more transparency, compensation from city

THUNDER BAY – Patsy Stadnyk says it’s time the City of Thunder Bay steps up to deal with what seems to be a growing problem: homeowners confronted with leaking pipes and water lines.

Stadnyk paid $9,000 out of pocket for a leak at a rental property she owns earlier this year, a sum not covered by her insurance policy. She joins a growing number of residents reporting similar problems, possibly linked to the city’s addition of sodium hydroxide to its water supply.

Stadnyk has banded together with others on a local Facebook group that had grown to over 600 members as of Saturday. She is leveraging those connections to organize a rally at city hall on Wednesday to demand more action from the city.

Municipal leaders have remained tight-lipped on the issue, citing potential legal concerns.

In late January 2020, the city announced it would discontinue the addition of sodium hydroxide to the municipal water supply, after receiving numerous reports of pinhole leaks developing in copper water pipes.

The city had added the chemical to its drinking water since 2018 to reduce lead levels for the approximately 8,700 local homes that still have lead water service pipes. It’s a strategy that was seemingly proving effective in its stated goal.

However, it may have led to unintended consequences, as local plumbing companies report an “unbelievable” surge in the number of residents experiencing pinhole leaks and other problems with copper pipes.

Stadnyk is frustrated with the lack of answers on the issue from the city.

“Thunder Bay has a very serious problem,” she says. “We have pipes leaking all over the place, not only in our homes, but in businesses, in churches. It’s been going on for two years, and the city has shoved it under the carpet – they don’t want to listen to us, they don’t want to take responsibility.”

City councillors say they’ve been instructed to refer calls on the matter to the city's Environment Division, which is responsible for water and sewer services.

No city representative has ever stated that a definitive link has been made between the use of sodium hydroxide and the dramatic increase in leaks in household copper water pipes.

City officials said Friday they cannot comment publicly on the issue at this time.

Stadnyk believes the chemical to be behind the leaks, but regardless, says individual residents shouldn’t be left holding the bag on bills that can range into the tens of thousands in extreme cases.

 “It’s time we come together,” she says. “We want clarification, we want answers, and we want compensation. Who’s responsible? Somebody has to be responsible, and somebody has to compensate the city’s taxpayers.”

Another homeowner who spoke with Tbnewswatch Friday, Jackie Grace, agrees. She's had nine separate leaks at her Simon Fraser Drive home.

“Please address this issue and let us know what has happened here," she asks of city leaders. "Is there going to be any compensation? It doesn’t seem fair we’re being held responsible for something we didn’t do.”

The rally organized by Stradnyk will take place at 4 p.m. Wednesday at city hall, ahead of a virtual town hall meeting held that night by Mayor Bill Mauro for 7 p.m..

“I know it’s not this mayor’s problem – this happened before he was elected," said Stradnyk. "But he has to be the mayor who solves the problem.”

Ian Kaufman

About the Author: Ian Kaufman

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