THUNDER BAY - Frustration continues to mount for residents who have experienced property damage due to pinhole leaks in copper water pipes and demands for accountability continue to grow louder as the city remains silent.
More than 100 people rallied outside of city hall on Wednesday calling on city officials to provide some answers on what can be done to address the leaks.
“Our message today is we are tired of just talking and phoning and emailing and not getting any satisfaction or any response,” said Patsy Stadnyk, who organized the rally. “We are tired of our elected council members not listening to us.”
Stadnyk paid $9,000 to repair a leak in a rental property and she created a social media group for people who have had similar issues that has since grown to more than 1,000 members.
“We want some action,” she said. “We are paying taxes and our homes and our infrastructure are falling apart. It’s time the city has taken the responsibility.”
Residents and property owners across the city and Fort William First Nation have been experiencing pinhole leaks in copper water pipes since last year, with a surge of incidents taking place in the last several months.
Those at the rally believe the city adding sodium hydroxide to the water supply as a corrosion control measure is responsible for pinhole leaks developing in copper pipes.
The city ended the use sodium hydroxide last January after receiving numerous reports of leaks developing.
City officials and members of council have remained silent on the issue, citing potential legal concerns.
But that offers little solace to those who have paid out thousands of dollars to fix damage from leaking pipes.
“We had this problem happen in May,” said Chris Jarabak. “We were without water for two months. It was a good thing we had a good neighbour to hook up a hose. Otherwise we would have been in a hotel room. Who is going to pay for that?”
“Look at all these people here. It’s probably happened to everybody here. Something has to be done. Sodium hydroxide problem they introduced into this system is not working.”
Mary Sorokopud experienced a leak in several parts of a rental property, which ended up costing her more than $12,000 and the loss of rental revenue after a tenant moved out.
“I know I am having a hard time and others are having a hard time too,” she said. “Even if we can get a portion, I put out close to $12,000, if we can get a portion of that back, we would certainly appreciate it.”
Many of those who have experienced damage have been covered by insurance, and while they are calling for the city to pay a portion for damages, others are worried about those who do not have adequate insurance coverage.
“Not everybody is covered by insurance and it’s going to get worse,” Stadnyk said. “We are in Thunder Bay. Winter is coming and people are having these problems.”
“The city started this problem and we have to fix it,” added Jarabak.
Everyone at the rally was calling for answers and a solution to fix the leaks. The next step could be taking legal action, but Stadnyk said she hopes it does not come to that.
“If they don’t listen to us, what the heck are they doing being council members? They were voted in. It’s time we get some common sense in city hall,” she said.
“They have to respond to us. If they don’t, I am under the understanding that they are being sued now, maybe they need a class action suit. I don’t know. We will go forward. We are not going away. We are their city. This is the city. We are not going away. Deal with us.”
Thunder Bay Mayor Bill Mauro is hosting a virtual town hall meeting tonight at 7 p.m. and Stadnyk said she submitted questions about the issue in the hopes he provides some answers.