City of Saskatoon sues hydrant maker, wholesaler over contaminated Aspen Ridge fire hydrants

The City of Saskatoon is suing the companies that made and distributed fire hydrants that were found to be contaminated with a petroleum-based substance, leading to a months-long do-not-use order on the water supply of Aspen Ridge residents.

The statement of claim, filed at Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench on Nov. 23, names Atlanta-based Mueller Water Products Inc., which made and sold the fire hydrants, and Wolseley Canada Inc., the Ontario-based wholesale distributor of the hydrants.

The City is seeking more than $1 million for losses and damages related to inspecting the water system, cleaning up the contamination, setting up temporary lines, providing water to affected residents, hiring experts, identifying the substance contaminating the system and fixing the system.

Statements of claim contain allegations that have not been tested in court. A statement of defence had not been filed by either defendant as of Thursday morning.

Aspen Ridge residents were left without a permanent water source from January until September after hydrocarbons — compounds found in oil and gas — were found in both phases of Aspen Ridge. The provincial Water Security Agency issued an advisory to residents to not use the water on Jan. 10. A do-not-use order was issued for 19 addresses, 10 of which were occupied at the time, according to the city. 

In January, the city’s acting director of transportation and utilities, Angela Gardiner, said the hydrocarbons were found in the hydrants but not the drinking water supply.

According to the statement of claim, the city in 2014 hired an outside contractor based in Edmonton, Sprague-Rosser Contracting Co., to install hydrants in Phase 1 and 2 of the Aspen Ridge development. The city presumed that Sprague-Rosser contracted Wolseley, which then contracted Mueller Water. The city says it was not a party to either of the sub-contracts.

Sprague-Rosser went into receivership months after the contracts were negotiated. Acadia Construction was hired in May 2015 to continue the installation work.

Hydrocarbons, according to the city’s statement of claim, were initially discovered in part of two Mueller Modern Centurion fire hydrants during water sampling in 2016. A lab determined the black substance was hydrocarbons and the substance was found in nine of 12 hydrants in Aspen Ridge’s Phase 2, which is isolated from Phase 1, the city claims.

Contaminated hydrants were found in Phase 1 in January 2018. The do-not-use order was issued that month.

Temporary drinking water lines were installed to connect Aspen Ridge residents to the city water supply.

The city hired Stantec Consulting for $1.5 million to undertake a remediation plan in June. That sum does not include construction costs. 

The water supply was deemed safe to use in September and the temporary water lines were removed.

The city claims both Mueller Water and Wolseley should have known it’s common practice for municipalities to use hydrants as an injection point during the commissioning of new potable water distribution systems. It also claims Mueller and/or Wolseley knew or ought to have known about the potential for the hydrocarbons to form in the hydrants and failed to inform the city.

“As a result, the hydrants were not fit for the purpose intended by the city but rather created a dangerous condition by contaminating the city’s public potable water system,” the city’s claim states.

It argues both companies knew or ought to have known the hydrants would be connected to the drinking water system and failed to warn officials of the potential for contamination of the drinking water system, and that Mueller Water “failed to warn anyone coming into contact with the hydrants of the potential for hydrocarbons to form and failed to provide information, procedures or techniques to minimize the risk.”

tjames@postmedia.com

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