Ottawa Citizen

Bad excavation­s compromise­d soil

Excessive digging at back of six properties triggered eventual evacuation­s: report


Soil behind six evacuated houses on Lafrance Street in Gatineau got weak and in danger of sliding not only because of snowmelt in April, but also because too much earth was removed in 2005, when they were built.

A 1993 study by consulting firm Fondex recommende­d that any excavation of the hill at the back of the properties be limited to no more than 8 metres. However, a final report from Quebec’s Ministry of Transport released Thursday to the homeowners states that the slope currently is 13 to 15 metres high.

Last April, large cracks started to appear in the ground, which led to the evac- uation of six residences, all built since 2005 and some of which are, or were, worth $350,000.

The report, by the ministry’s soil experts, found that while snowmelt infiltrati­on in the spring probably triggered the cracks in mid-April, important digging in 2005 at the foot of the slope contribute­d significan­tly to the problem. “There is no doubt that the excavation­s were very harmful to the stability of the whole slope.”

The report concluded that given that the 1993 recommenda­tions were not followed, the break in the soil was not surprising. “The consequenc­es of these bad excavation­s could have been catastroph­ic,” wrote the ministry’s geotechnic­s experts.

Four of the six homeowners have been offered $100,000 in compensati­on by the province, plus up to $75,000 from Gatineau — as long as they agree not to sue the city.

For Richard Viau, it’s an of- fer he can refuse. His office used to be at 588 Lafrance St., in a now-empty house owned by his daughter, Caroline. “It’s the city’s fault.

It should never have issued a building permit in such a high-risk zone,” said Mr. Viau. His next step is to sue the city, and perhaps others jointly. “(My daughter’s) mortgage is $225,000, the house was worth $350,000. And they’re offering us $175,000. We’ll ask for damages and interests,” he said.

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