Sinking feeling for Marine Drive residents

Neighbours question City of White Rock’s explanation of ‘naturally’ occurring settlement.

One of at least four Marine Drive properties that have sustained damage from sinking ground. Below

Marine Drive residents are questioning the city’s explanation as to why their waterfront homes have sunk several inches over the past eight months.

Significant sinking is visible on at least four properties in the 14700-block of Marine Drive, including a home rented by Terry Bird, who said the ground has shifted noticeably since December. The fence separating his backyard from his neighbours’ used to be level, and now slopes downward towards the front of the lot.

“I’ve adjusted the gate in the backyard twice since Christmas,” Bird said. “There’s something going on back there.”

On his neighbours’ driveway, there is a gap of close to six inches between the steps leading to the front door and ground.

The City of White Rock’s manager of engineering, Bob Ambardar, told Peace Arch News Thursday that the city became aware of residents’ concerns about the sinking in March.

The city consulted with the geotechnical engineer working on the nearby under-construction neighbouring development, who surveyed and monitored the area for the next three months, and said no settlement was detected over that time frame.

Ambardar said the city then hired an independent geotechnical engineer, who also concluded that any settlement in the area was caused “naturally.”

“We did determine that there are peat deposits scattered throughout the area,” Ambardar explained. “The peat can be full of water and when it dries out, it can settle, sometimes quite rapidly.”

Ambardar acknowledged it’s “unusual” to see sinking take place so quickly, but said one possible cause is the drier-than-normal winter the region experienced last year.

Bird, however, said he doesn’t believe the shifting can be described as “natural,” and is among a handful of residents wondering if construction of Newport Living – a large residential/commercial complex underway since June 2014 – is to blame.

“This isn’t normal for the amount of time it took,” he said. “Normal settlement is 10 years or so, not six months.”

Ambardar maintained that both geotechnical engineers consulted by the city concluded the sinking was not caused by the excavation.

PAN attempts to reach the developer of Newport Living were unsuccessful.

Neighbour Bob Berger, whose home is directly across from the construction, said he has his suspicions about what caused the “massive shifting” around his home.

Stone stairwells leading to a basement entry in his home have collapsed, requiring repair, and a retaining wall has begun to separate from the house. His next-door neighbours recently replaced their driveway, after the ground sank so deep that they couldn’t get one of their cars out of the garage.

The cost of repairs currently underway on Berger’s home – including damage caused when a vehicle crashed into his home June 3 – is estimated at more than $10,000.

“For the city to tell us it’s due to a natural shifting of ground is highly suspect for all of us here, because it happened so fast, and around the time that the excavation occurred across the street,” he said.

Berger said he and other neighbours witnessed several springs of water bubbling in the excavation site when the hole was first being dug, and wonders if the water table was affected.

According to Ambardar, however, when the excavation took place, there was “very little water” in the ground, and any water that was pumped out was monitored, recorded and provided to the city.

While the city is aware of residents reporting spotting springs, Ambardar said staff did not observe any firsthand.

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