Bowker Avenue resident waits for tests on contaminated soil

Report on Oak Bay’s response to flooding also due Friday

Juggling obligations and stress is a standard holiday pastime, but for the family hit hardest by last month’s flood, the seasonal coping mechanisms are in overdrive.

Martin Scaia has watched his neighbours on the 2200-block of Bowker Ave. restore their basements and return to their homes after a broken watermain last month spilled more than 11 million litres of water into their basements, but his time hasn’t yet come. Until Scaia receives the results of an environmental assessment on possible diesel contamination in his soil, he continues to live in a downtown hotel room with his wife Zoë Bradshaw and their three children. The carpenter travels between downtown, his Oak Bay workshop, school and the kids’ extracurricular activities.

Last Wednesday (Dec. 12), Wittich Environmental, contracted by the municipality of Oak Bay, took soil from holes in Scaia’s basement and sent the samples to Vancouver for contamination testing. Diesel, believed to be from a neighbour’s home, Scaia said, was suspected to have infiltrated his property. Other neighbourhood homes will also be tested. The results are expected back early this week. In the meantime, his family remains holed up in the hotel – at least for the immediate future.

“Our insurance agent has told us that our additional expenses are going to expire soon,” Scaia said. “We can’t delay any longer with this or we’re going to be out in the street.”

Oak Bay has set out to answer some tough questions around the flood this week, with the release of an incident report from the chief administrative officer expected on Friday (Dec. 21). The report, said Mayor Nils Jensen, will outline what happened and how the municipality can make positive changes based on the experience. It will be posted to oakbay.ca.

“We recognize that this is a time-consuming and difficult process for the residents,” Jensen said, recognizing the aid parks and engineering departments provided. “We’re certainly trying to be as supportive as we can be here.”

Scaia is hoping for a clean environmental report, but bracing for the worst-case scenario. Should the soil prove to be contaminated, he’s not sure where his family will stay for the extended remediation process, he said. Though he’s hesitant to comment on just how much it could cost to remove contaminated soil from beneath his home, Scaia knows he won’t be able to foot the bill.

“A lot of people comment that insurance will pay for everything, but I think anyone who has been through a large insurance claim understands that this is not a free ride,” Scaia said. “This is a lot of work and a lot of disappointment at this point.”

Though feeling alone and without recourse, Scaia continues to question what would have happened had the metre-deep water surged through his newly-renovated basement after nightfall, while his children slept.

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