Kelowna resident Duane Thachyk has been in his Dilworth Mountain home for 12 years but never did he think he would be tearing up his yard, chasing after a groundwater issue that has him asking questions about who is responsible.
Water has saturated his yard, found its way into his basement and continually streams out of his front yard onto the street and this week, he brought in a contracting crew to start digging up his yard and investigate what has happened to his perimeter drainage system and figure out how he can stop water from getting into his house.
“There’s so much water and it has nowhere to go,” he said as crews began to dig a 10 foot hole down to the bottom of the foundation of his house, built in the late 1980s. “My yard is sinking, there are cracks in the foundation and water is coming in. We’re going to dig down to the foundation. We’re hoping we can get to the water and put a sump pump in.”
In his case, Thachyk’s property is at the base of a steep slope leading up to the highest point of Dilworth Mountain. Homes were built above him and he says for 10 of his 12 years, there was no issue. But last April he first contacted the City of Kelowna when he noticed his yard sinking. From then on it’s been an ongoing issue.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “I have a job that I have to be at and all I’m doing is thinking about this. This could be a second mortgage, probably $30,000 to fix. My daughter loves this house but…”
It’s likely not any comfort as his landscaped yard gets torn apart, but Thachyk isn’t alone in his battle with groundwater. Residents around the Okanagan are dealing with groundwater issues for a variety of reasons: An early spring and higher than average snow pack, irrigation issues, or failures in perimeter drainage systems could all be causes of excessive water on properties in the Okanagan.
Drainage companies contacted by the Capital News say they are fielding calls on the issue and say some major jobs could go as high as $20,000 to fix.
“It’s been a really weird year,” said Brian Beach, the City of Kelowna’s infrastructure delivery manager, adding the city has fielded calls from residents in the South Mission, in Wilden and other areas with groundwater issues this year. “The extra snow and the quick melt basically was the equivalent of a monsoon. Anyone that lives at the bottom of a hill has to have a really good on-site perimetre drain system.”
Years ago, when the city first heard from a resident dealing with groundwater problems, the city asked for a legal opinion of who is liable for these kinds of problems, said Beach. In the case of Thachyk’s yard, Beach says crews have checked the systems above his property and are confident the water is not coming from a water main or leaking sewer.
“The city has an extensive legal opinion that clearly indicates we are not responsible for on-site private property drainage issues,” he said. “Builders and homeowners…need to install and maintain robust on-site foundation drainage systems to prevent problems, especially when excavating into the base of the slope. Unfortunately, contractor installation practices for on-site drainage systems do not have a great track record.”
Beach added that perimeter drainage systems are usually piped to a buried rock pit in the lower portion of the yard and added the location of rock pits are rarely recorded and are not usually accessible for maintenance.
In a case where a homeowner has done everything they can and still are battling the problem, the city can work with them to install a storm drain at the road.
“We can’t help on the property but if the water can’t be absorbed and if the owners have done everything properly on their site then we might be able to help with work in the street, but they need to be make sure their own system is working,” he said. In Thachyk’s specific case, he they are going to investigate further to see if a storm drain would help in front of his home.
For Thachyk, his frustration continues as he faces the problem head on with his own contracting crew, looking to shore up the drainage around his property. He says the problems never started until development above him, which included blasting, began.
“I didn’t approve those houses and inspect them, the city did,” he said. “But they’re hands are tied, if they start saying they are going to fix the problems in my yard, they’re opening up a can of worms for everyone else.”