A messy situation 

Pemberton resident files lawsuit against municipality to recover sewage cleanup costs

Mark Hunter says something stinks in Pemberton, and it isn’t just the sewage that flooded his wife Vida’s property two summers ago.

Hunter explained that in June 2006, the Village sewer line between the Petro Canada gas station and the Wild Wood restaurant was clogged, and the sewage backed up into the neighbouring trailer court.

“Vida’s, I guess being the lowest trailer, ended up getting flooded underneath with just raw sewage,” said Hunter.=

Hunter immediately contacted the Village of Pemberton, who instructed him to get it cleaned up and send them the invoice.

“It was a huge mess,” said Hunter. “I mean … it was just flowing outside into her lawn. And oh, the smell. And this was in June, when it was pretty hot.”

The entire cleanup ended up costing about $6,800.

“They had to scrape up three to four inches of topsoil, plus all the sewage, and all the insulation underneath her trailer had to be removed and disposed of,” said Hunter.

What was more upsetting, he said, was the way the municipality reacted to the situation.

“None of the councillors have even talked to Vida… The Village did not even step foot on her property to even have a look at what it was like.”

As a resident of the community since 1984, Hunter says it’s a bit disheartening that the municipality didn’t try to help out.

“They just ignored the whole situation.”

As instructed, Hunter says he submitted all of the invoices for the cleanup to the municipality in the fall, and they passed them along to the Municipal Insurance Association (MIA) which represents 168 municipalities in B.C.

But he received word last spring that they won’t cover the costs of the cleanup because legislation in the Local Government Act states that municipalities have immunity against certain “nuisance actions”, which includes sewage malfunctions.

“In hindsight, they never did say they would pay for it,” said Hunter, adding that they were led to believe that the municipality’s insurance would cover the costs.

Now Hunter is trying to resolve the issue by taking the municipality to small claims court.

“So here they are, trying to escape. Even the mayor said, ‘oh, this is too much money for the Village to pay,’ yet this is almost half of Vida’s yearly income, and it wasn’t her fault,” said Hunter.

Representatives from the Village of Pemberton declined to comment on the matter, because of the ongoing legal proceedings.

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