KGW has obtained the 11 tort claims from exasperated members of the community who had their homes, crawl spaces and cars filled with water during the water main break.
The claims add up to more than $94,000 in damage that home and businesses owners were asking the city to pay out.
AJ Kleffner wrote in part in his claim against the city: "According to the news, the pipe was 100+ yrs old. Our furnace was under water and no longer functional. Myself, my wife, and our 3 & 5yr kids are no longer able to live in our home. Significant personal property damage as well. This is an URGENT situation.”
Kleffner said he is looking at more than $60,000 in reparations and replacements to his home in recouping what was lost. He was hoping the city would pay for it because the Portland Water Bureau oversees the city's water pipe infrastructure.
However, the City of Portland Risk Division said the city is not liable for the damage because, despite the pipe’s age, they were not negligent in caring for the 104-year-old pipe.
Patrick Hughes, the city's risk manager, told KGW Monday the main break was an unforeseen accident with an unknown cause. He says they upheld the proper "standard of care" and carried out their duties in a "reasonable" way.
Hughes tells KGW the pipe's maintenance records do not show a reason to believe this pipe, immediately or in the near future, posed an issue. KGW has filed a public records request with the Portland Water Bureau for copies of their maintenance records.
“There should be accountability for the people making these types of decisions. After all, their salaries are paid by taxpayer dollars. I think we deserve some transparency to the process and I think there should be some accountability in who is making this decision and why," said Kleffner. “I think there should be some communication. Getting an email telling me I’m out $60,000 and ‘Oh that’s unfortunate but that’s on you,’ – that’s not right, it’s just not personal at all. It’s not how I believe our city should be run and how this process should go. I think the process is broken.”
The ten other tort claims list similar complaints of varying severity:
“A water main ruptured causing a power outage. This disrupted business operations and we a result we had to close. Infrastructure maintenance is the responsibility of the city of Portland, therefore damages caused by failures are also the city’s responsibility.”
“Store had to close because of the water levels and water damaged good.”
“Break in water main and flow of water caused flooding in basement of property – 2ft of water.”
“In conjunction with the 30th water main break, thousands of gallons of water backed up and flowed into my building’s crawlspace. This happened because the crown of Killingsworth Street is too high. The City repaved this street many years ago. The street elevation created a berm that backs water against my building.”
Kleffner has said he hopes to get together the ten other people who filed property damage, living expenses and loss of business claims to take legal action against the City of Portland for denying them.
He feels it's his only avenue to secure compensation for property damage caused by pipe rupture.
Kleffner and another neighbor are seeking copies of the investigation reports into their claims. However, Hughes told KGW Monday they can't release those because they're protected under a case file prepared in anticipation of litigation.
Should homeowners and business owners follow through with appealing their denials and suing the city, those reports could come to light.