BC Hydro, city entangled in lawsuit over broken ground at substation
The City of Burnaby and BC Hydro have been caught up in a lawsuit over the damage at the Big Bend substation for well over a year, now.
Who broke this ground?
For over a year, BC Hydro has been locked in a legal battle with the federal government and the City of Burnaby to figure out exactly that, after discovering cracks in the ground at a local substation.
According to BC Hydro’s June 2020 lawsuit, unauthorized work conducted in the Byrne Creek area caused the damage to the electrical utility’s Big Bend substation.
And the damage caused “overstressing of panels in the substation, and damage to the foundations and earthworks underneath” the substation, BC Hydro claimed.
Court filings tie the work both to the City of Burnaby and to the federal Crown corporation, Canada Lands Company.
BC Hydro bought the 5020 Glenlyon Place property in 2013, and construction on the substation was completed in March 2017.
CLC and the city sought a statutory right of way to maintain an existing embankment and dike adjacent to Byrne Creek. Their initial draft was rejected by BC Hydro, which said it would allow the construction of a dike and a road on the utility’s property.
In August that year, the city reportedly confirmed the right of way would only provide the city access to maintain an existing dike adjacent to Byrne Creek and not to construct or maintain a dike on the BC Hydro property.
And a year later the statutory right of way was registered. According to the notice of civil claim, the right of way gave the city permission to pass over the access path to the existing dike with machinery weighing less than one tonne, but not with a vehicle. It also didn’t allow the city to deposit materials on the path, according to BC Hydro’s filings.
Alleged substation trespass
In August 2018, the Canada Land Company deposited fill and soil along the access path and riverbank, according to BC Hydro. CLC also reportedly constructed a gravel roadway.
“At no time did BC Hydro give CLC permission to enter onto the property or to enter upon or use the access road,” BC Hydro wrote in its notice of civil claim.
And in the same month that the work was being done, BC Hydro says employees noted cracks in the ground on the east side of the substation.
In July 2019, BC Hydro hired Golder Associates, a construction firm involved in the original construction of the substation, to do a geotechnical investigation.
In March 2020, Golder reported to BC Hydro that the work done by CLC and the city was causing deformations in the ground.
The damage, BC Hydro argued, has compromised the structural integrity of the substation and increased seismic risk, as well as creating a “potentially dangerous and harmful situation for BC Hydro and its personnel.”
The utility added that the damage requires “extensive” remediation work. And BC Hydro believes the city’s continued presence on the property has continued to cause damage, with new cracks on the property, inside its fenceline, discovered in April 2020.
As a result, BC Hydro is seeking a court order that the city and CLC remove all unauthorized material from the property, including the roadway and an embankment built in the area.
BC Hydro disagrees
However, CLC is disputing BC Hydro’s claims.
As of Nov 5, the latest court filings in the case were regarding an application by CLC to demand documents from Golder and BC Hydro regarding the cracks in the ground or the groundwork in the substation’s construction.
CLC wrote that BC Hydro has so far refused to produce the relevant documents.
In the October 2021 notice of application, CLC argued that Golder improved portions of the BC Hydro property so as to avoid post-construction settlement, or shifting of the ground. However, CLC claimed the substation was constructed partly on the improved ground and partly off of it, meaning part of the substation was susceptible to the ground shifting beneath it.
“BC Hydro knew or ought to have known that non-supported native soil outside the [improved] zone would settle and distort, including at the barrier of the [improved] zone above which portions of the substation were constructed,” CLC wrote.
In its own response to the lawsuit, the City of Burnaby denied that the activities caused damage to the property—but if it did, it says it wasn’t the city’s responsibility.
In its filings, the city suggested Golder may be to blame for inadequate groundwork before or during the dike work. It also suggested responsibility may lie with CLC or one of the subcontractors it employed for the work.
The city also denied that it breached the statutory right of way.
None of the claims has been proven in court.