Windsor officials say "act of God" not negligence to blame for flooding
Published Friday, March 23, 2018 7:20PM EDT
Officials with the City of Windsor insist it was an “act of God” and not negligence on the city’s behalf that caused thousands of homes to flood last summer.
The city has denied more than 1,600 claims made mostly by insurers and insurance adjusters who paid settlements to their clients and looked to be reimbursed by Windsor at a cost of more than $30-million to the taxpayer.
“It's likely because they felt it was the resulting infrastructure failure on the municipal side that led to people having flooded basements," says Pete Karageorgos of the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
Significant rainfall, up to 290 millimetres in some areas, from Aug. 28 to Aug. 29, 2017 brought major flooding to Windsor, Tecumseh, and other parts of Essex County. City officials say they received over 6,900 reports of basement flooding.
Karageorgos tells CTV Windsor if the claims were successful, homeowners would receive their deductible back, and likely not have the flood listed on their home record.
City of Windsor engineer Mark Winterton insists all systems were working when the historic rainfall hit last summer, and the city can't be held responsible.
“When there is a major act of god event where we get well over a 100 year type storm, the system can't address it," says Winterton.
Mayor Drew Dilkens tells CTV Windsor the city doesn't shy away from responsibility on a claim when it's clearly liable.
In fact, Dilkens points out Windsor paid $3.3-million in 2017 for a variety of claims, mostly slips and falls.
“I feel bad, I was flooded too,” says Dilkens. “We know it's a bad situation, but it's one of those situations that was an act of god and not negligence of the city."
Karageorgos admits insurance companies fear intense storms are becoming the new norm.
“When it starts happening with regularity, it becomes a little more challenging from an insurance standpoint,” says Karageorgos. “No longer is it an event that's sudden and accidental, but inevitable."
That could lead to higher premiums, or even leave some homeowners without a policy.
Karageorgos is calling on all levels of government to address the fallout from climate change, and fund growing infrastructure needs of municipalities across Canada.
For the city's part, the multi-million dollar sewer master plan is moving forward. Officials hope the work being done now will identify areas vulnerable to flooding and generate solutions to manage flooding in the future.