Iron-eating bacteria can destroy home’s drain pipes
**Last Updated: Tuesday, April 6, 2010 | 5:19 PM ET **
**CBC News **
Home inspectors in western Quebec and eastern Ontario are warning about bacteria in the soil that could cost homeowners thousands of dollars.
The so-called iron-eating bacteria can destroy a home’s drainage system.
And once the problem begins, they say, there’s usually no way to fix it.
As an example, what was supposed to be Pascal Bertrand’s dream home in Gatineau quickly turned into a nightmare.
“During the first winter we noticed a problem with the house,” Bertrand said Monday.
He bought the newly built home in 2002, and right away there was frequent flooding in the basement.
Bertrand soon discovered a muddy, reddish substance in the drainage pipes.
That substance was later identified as iron ochre, also known as iron-eating bacteria.
The bacteria were first discovered in this region a few years ago, in certain types of soil where the water table is high.
They produce a kind of mud that expands over time, eventually clogging and eroding a drainage system, and causing flooding.
The problem is there’s no permanent fix.
So Bertrand has had to pay more than $12,000 to keep his pipes clean.
“This is the problem we’re stuck with. We bought this brand new house hoping we’re not going to have those kinds of problems,” he said.
Bertrand isn’t the only one with this problem. There have been 20 other reported cases in West Quebec, and one in Embrun, Ont., just east of Ottawa.
“It’s the speed [at which homes are built],” said long-time home inspector Pierre Vachon. “You don’t look at where you’re building before you build. And once you’re there, and you experience that problem, it’s too late.”
Vachon believes there will be many more cases to come, as the problem tends to surface a few years after home construction.
He said it’s a case of a city not doing its homework.
“The municipality are the ones giving out the permits. And they also have access to databases that have analysis of the soil beneath these houses. So they should have knowledge of that,” he said.
In a written statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for Gatineau said the city is not responsible for the problem, adding there are no regulations prohibiting the city from issuing building permits on land that could be affected by this “natural phenomenon.”
So, homeowners like Bertrand are on the hook for the costs.
He said he now plans to sell his property, but for much less than he paid for it.