Martin Scaia and partner Zoe Bradshaw were among the hardest hit when a water main broke in Oak Bay last month, flooding homes on Bowker Avenue, causing extensive damage to many.
The beds of their three children were floating in the basement when the water reached its peak level.
Restoration crews have dried the house and removed parts of the drywall exposed to the muddy water, but much more work may be required. In the meantime, the couple is living at a downtown hotel with their three daughters.
Scaia and Bradshaw said they had to push the municipality to get an environmental assessment, which they say should have been a routine decision.
They were worried because they could see and smell diesel in the water. Fortunately, the testing has been done and came back negative for the soil under the house, Scaia said Friday.
There is now a plan to test soil surrounding all of the affected properties, he said. “We’re very pleased that there was no contamination. So if that’s any indication of the rest of the soil, I think we’ll be in good shape.”
Preliminary research shows several homes on the block have oil tanks underground, said Scaia, who spoke to the company doing the assessment.
He and Bradshaw have been pushing the municipality to create a strategy for responding to such emergencies.
They and other residents say there was a lack of leadership as the water swamped the residential street.
Several residents say public works staff should have called the fire department immediately after the line broke. Instead, residents made the call around 11:20 a.m.
In a review of the Nov. 20 incident, Oak Bay administrator Mark Brennan recommends the fire department be called to assist with future breaks as soon as it becomes apparent that property damage is likely to occur.
Oak Bay staff, at the time, said they were ready to ask for assistance once they realized the situation was becoming unmanageable.
Firefighters brought in water pumps and helped contain the flood.
“Once the fire department showed up, things happened lickity-split because they knew exactly what to do,” Scaia said.
Firefighters also contacted B.C. Hydro, according to Ted Olynyk, spokesman for the Crown corporation.
Residents say the delayed call to shut off electricity during the flood is alarming.
“What if that happened at night? My kids sleep in the basement, where the water came up well higher than the electrical outlets,” Scaia said.
Meanwhile, he said, the municipality never contacted him or the other affected property owners as part of its emergency-response-protocol review.
“None of the neighbours — and I’ve talked to all of the neighbours — nobody has had any input at all with the municipality.”
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