Apartment water damage was preventable, say downtown residents

As she surveys the damage to her apartment, Julia Collins admits she doesn’t expect she’ll be able to move back in again any time soon.

"It's been home for four years and, well, this is definitely not home."

Her apartment building at 34 Covent Market Place had to be evacuated on Friday evening after a pipe in the sprinkler system ruptured.

"It took about 20 seconds to just fill up and ceilings just collapsed," she explains.

Collins says she, and other tenants, believe the damage could have been prevented.

She says there had been no heat in the common areas of the building, like the hallways and the foyer, during the deep cold of the polar vortex.

"It hurt to walk on the floor…We were all wearing coats in our apartment with our heat full blast,” Collins says, explaining how tenants tried to offset the cold coming into apartments from the halls.

Shawn Best, of Best Plumbing and Drainage, says companies have been swamped with calls as the thaw exposes damage to water lines and drains.

He says not maintaining at least some heat in all areas of a building often creates significant issues.

"You've got to keep the temperature up so your lines don't freeze, especially in vulnerable areas like on the exterior walls and things like that."

Collins, her boyfriend and their two pets have had temporary accommodations arranged by the Red Cross, with others receiving similar assistance. She works a minimum wage job and had no insurance.

She estimates about 50 people live in the 25 apartment units.

Two businesses on the main floor, a restaurant and a clothing boutique, are also impacted by the water.