‘Massive hole’ exposing pipes of Hamilton apartment building where water has been off for 10 weeks


Published March 8, 2023 at 3:16 pm

A union plumber who visited the Hamilton apartment building 1083 Main St. E. where tenants have been trying for two months to regain on-site running water, says it should not have been “any surprise” that pipes froze and burst there last December. Specifically, as Ronald J. Nazark described it an public letter today, the Delta-area dwelling has “what appeared to be a 5’ x10’ (five feet by 10 feet) hole cut into the wall of the building leading to open air.”

A handful of tenants at 1083 Main had hearings with the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) on Wednesday. March 8 marked 70 days — 10 weeks — since the tenants lost on-site running water. Tenants are concerned that leaving will lead to losing their homes in a tight rental market.

For the time being, the city’s property standards committee has accepted the claim by the owner, 1083 Main St. Inc, that the renoviction-fearing tenants have to be out for the work to be done, while also confirming the municipal work order. The company, which is headed by Oakville realtor Dylan Suitor (according to public business records cited in Hamilton media outlets), was to take up the costs of delivering potable water.

In the letter, posted online by the ACORN Hamilton tenant group, Nazark says he visited the property on Monday (March 6). In his professional observation, he did not espy water damage in units. But he found a “massive hole” into the wall of the building, which would have caused wintertime plumbing work to have “likely be(en) in vain.”

“I found no visible signs of water damage on any ceilings, walls or floors in the units I viewed, nor any expanded or burst supply piping,” Nazark writes. “We somehow ended up in a large commercial space where, again, there was no visible sign of expanded or burst pipes, although there was some water leaking from various disconnected pipes that were not capped, but instead left to drain on the floor. Aside from the pools of water from the disconnected piping there was minimal other visible damage aside from demolition.

“There was however what appeared to be a 5’ x 10’ (feet) hole cut into the wall of the building leading to open air,” adds the plumber, who is an executive at large with the Hamilton and District Labour Council. “… Any work performed to remediate the domestic water supply system would likely be in vain during the winter months due to this massive hole. Unfortunately, I did not see the basements and therefore can’t give any light on the condition of the systems in those locations.

“In summary, I was unable to confirm/detect that there were in fact any leakages, or burst pipes in the units I was given access to. One would assume there would be excessive damage to the drywall, plaster and flooring in any single unit in the 100s section (lowest floor of residential units) given the magnitude of the damage reported in the owner’s Communications Update, especially considering the fact that they were on the lower of the two floors. The only leaking pipes that I witnessed were pipes that were intentionally cut out and left

In Hamilton, the average cost of a one-bedroom rental unit is $1,868 and the mean rate of a two-bedroom is over $2,200. Some long-time tenants at 1083 Main have told Hamilton media outlets they pay around half the former rate for their dwellings.

‘At best negligent, and at worst intentional’

Nazark went on to say that the damage to the pipes was “very foreseeable.” The exact date of when pipes became exposed to the elements is not yet confirmed. But the day that hot water was lost, Dec. 27, was the 19th consecutive day in Hamilton where the overnight low was below freezing (OC). The daily mean temperatures over that span ranged from minus-13.1 C (on Dec. 24) to 0.6C, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada data.

“If, in fact, that hole had been there since the fall, I don’t think it is any surprise to anyone, the tenants, nor the landlord that this freezing issue was to take place,” writes Nazark.

“Nor should it have been a surprise to the plumbing contractor that they found more leaks after turning the water back on given this massive hole in the structure. There are of course steps that building management could have taken to avoid this including but not limited to: patching the hole, heat tracing water lines, insulating… however it appears they did not do these things. It appears to me, in my professional opinion, that the building management was at best negligent, and at worst intentional in their lack of action to address this very foreseeable issue.

Nazark is a member of UA Local 67 (the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada). According to a profile on workerscity.ca, he works in the Hamilton, Brantford and Niagara regions.

While the property standards committee’s decision stands, the elected leadership of Hamilton settled on a course of measured action last month. Councillors and Mayor Andrea Horwath voted 13-0 in favour of directing municipal staff to ” take and enforce all available actions… to ensure clean, running water is restored as expeditiously as possible for the residents.” The city’s vital services bylaw is also to be reviewed.

The 1083 Main residents are also receiving support from the city’s tenant defence fund in their hearings at the LTB.

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