Contractor addresses flooding of Princess Street businesses: ‘If something goes bad, I’ll own it.’

Kingston Fire and Rescue workers responding to the flooding of businesses on Princess Street on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018. Photo via Lindsey Foster.

When a few storefronts on Princess Street began gushing water into the street on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018, naturally, many assumed the issue was a broken water main.

It was not.

Since that date, we’ve learned that the flooding, which rose from the basements and through the main floors of two of the four affected businesses, was actually caused by an issue with a cap on a newly-installed six-inch wide water service line. The issue, in fact, had nothing to do with Utilities Kingston, a fact Dan Corcoran, president of Len Corcoran Excavating Ltd. owns.

Corcoran, who runs the company contracted to do all work on the Big Dig in downtown Kingston, said the cause of the flooding came down to one thing.

“It was an assembly issue,” he said, noting that the six-inch water service main was actually installed into the building that houses four businesses about six months prior to the flooding.

“We put the six-inch pipe through the wall and put a cap on it and bolted the cap on, and then connected the existing water supply to a tap in the end of the cap, and that’s all very typical of what we would do and what we have done on many, many, many places,” Corcoran continued, adding that his company has likely installed the same water service lines into about 100 buildings on Princess Street since the Big Dig began in 2010.

“Unfortunately… My folks, didn’t install the cap correctly, and that allowed the cap to come off.”

It is not as though the cap was just placed on the six-inch service line and not secured, Corcoran explained, but rather that the cap wasn’t installed as best it could have been.

“Our guys had made a reasonable effort, but, unfortunately, when we got in and looked at it, we hadn’t done 100 per cent effort, and the cap came off,” he said.

“We are human.”

But that doesn’t mean Corcoran and his team haven’t felt the effects of what happened, he expressed.

“All of us are sad, and our hearts are heavy, and we’re embarrassed. We cause enough grief to all of those businesses on the street just with the size of the project, and, as most people see, we spend a lot of time and effort to try to minimize, as much as we can, the negative effect,” he said, pointing out the extra steps his company takes to try to direct pedestrian traffic and make businesses as accessible as possible while the work is taking place.

“To have a stumble like this… it weighs on us all. We’re all very sad.”

Four businesses were affected by the flooding: Addiction and Mental Health Services KFLA (AMHS-KLFA), The Pita Grill and Poutine, Brian’s Record Option, and Tommy’s restaurant. Tommy’s reopened on Sunday, Aug. 5 to serve coffee (thanks, in part, to the huge clean-up efforts of their staff), and AMHS-KFLA only had some flooding in the basement, Corcoran explained. But The Pita Grill and Brian’s were definitely hit harder – with Brian losing huge parts of his incredible collection of albums and music memorabilia, and both buildings suffering electrical panel damage. Corcoran said it is unknown at this point how long it will be before those two businesses can re-open. But, where they’ve been able to, Corcoran Excavation has been doing what they can to help remedy the situation.

“It will be a significant enough repair and remediation that it’s an insurance company issue,” he said of who will be responsible for the damages sustained.

“[But] insurance companies are like big companies, they don’t always react all that quickly. So we took it on ourselves to get Service Master engaged on Saturday and Sunday and Monday to get started with the dehumidifiers, and Tuesday morning we brought in some temporary generator power of our own and got an electrician in to run some temporary power inside to try to get the dehumidifying process going,” he continued.

“We’re trying to help the affected people as much as we can with temporary power and with Service Master’s help to get the de-watering. As you can imagine with a heavy flood, it takes a while to get the humidity out of the damp buildings.”

And that’s not the only good thing to come out of such a terrible accident, he expressed.

“What we’ll take away from it is ‘What is it we can do differently to increase our chances of this not happening again?’ and we’ve had some internal discussions about what we can do, what kind of training we’ll do, and what kind of double checks we’ll get in place, so that we don’t have something like this happen again,” Corcoran said.

“I said to people the first time around [with the Big Dig] on Princess Street: ‘You can have some confidence in me. You guys all know where I live, and if something goes bad, I’ll own it.’ And that’s what we’re doing here.”

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