Borenstein Plumbing brings in extra pumps, hoses to help with Montreal’s flooding.


After being hit by a “100-year flood” in late April and early May, many homes on an island in Montreal, Ontario, in the St. Lawrence River were in trouble. In fact, over 5,000 people were impacted, ranging from just a few inches of water to several feet of water.

Plumbers in Montreal were thick in the fight to help save homes along the northwest shoreline of the island and the extended floodplain that were hit hard.

Sections of streets were underwater, with the only defense for homes being single and double walls of sandbags and multiple pumps operating 24/7 to keep the water from rising above the pits.

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COMING IN TO HELP

Borenstein Plumbing & Heating Inc., a family firm started in 1926, provided clients with pumps and hoses during the flooding, and is now helping to replace damaged water heaters, water boilers and furnaces.

Crew members put in long hours during the two phases of the flood. The initial phase lasted a few days and then water levels stabilized. Then the second phase came with the ground already saturated. Rain was falling and the ground couldn’t absorb it all, making the waters rise again.

“People figured everything would be OK and when the water rose again, they were flooded,” says Murry Borenstein, president and owner. “Homeowners called me to unblock drains and things like that, but there wasn’t much we could do. Once the basement had a few inches of water, you couldn’t pump it out fast enough. The problem had to be dealt with before the infiltration.”

Borenstein, a master plumber with 47 years’ experience, and his four plumbers — each with their own truck — spent many hours at the office taking calls and securing additional pumps and hoses.

“People who recognized that they would have a problem, called me and we put in a secondary pump with hoses so that the water would go from the basement pit to the outside,” Borenstein says. “We put in five pumps for one person in St. Lazare and kept the water from flooding his basement. The basement never got wet and he was very happy.”

NOT BEING READY

The firm had a few pumps in stock to deal with normal flooding, but no one was prepared for this season’s flooding.

“I figured I’d need just a few,” say Borenstein. “I didn’t expect anything like this. I’ve never seen anything like this before. I ran around buying bigger pumps and I purchased about 20 pumps altogether until everybody ran out.”
Pumps were purchased from distributors in South Shore, Montreal and Laval. Borenstein also traveled to Plattsburgh, New York, to buy hoses. “If they didn’t have something in stock at a certain branch, they would get it from another if they had it,” he says.

SAVING VALUABLES

While extra pumps for one house did not prevent the home being flooded, it saved a valuable guitar and drum collection, stored in a climate-controlled room.

“A pump we put in kept the water at bay for over a week and then the river overflowed its banks and there was nothing we could do,” say Borenstein. “Even with big pumps brought in by the fire department, she still ended up being flooded out. The whole back lawn was underwater and her street was partially underwater. There’s a cement wall at the river and the water is usually 10 to 12 feet below that. But her husband’s collection was kept safe and we bought them the time needed to remove everything to a safe place.”

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NOW COME THE REPAIRS

Borenstein’s crews have replaced three water heaters, which due to water damage are no longer safe to use, and many furnaces will have to be replaced. The water has since receded and Borenstein is working with clients to determine what can be saved and what needs to be replaced. Many homeowners are also taking steps to remove the mold that built up.

“There’s not much we can do until people pull up the floors and stuff and throw out the garbage,” Borenstein says. “A lot of people are going to want to start putting in backwater valves if they didn’t have them. Those will prevent drainage waste from backing up into the house, but even having this during the flood would not have been sufficient.”

Borenstein wants to ensure his current and potential clients have a good idea of what they need, and does not charge for initial discussions to review individual situations. “If we have to go in, it’s my standard rates,” he says. “We want to look after our customers and help them.”

The company is providing options for new sump pumps, including battery-operated ones with controllers that notify people if you’re going to have an emergency or a problem.

“It’s all about giving a leg up and giving them extra time in case another flood like this occurs,” says Borenstein.

For some, the flood has been an incentive to replace aging equipment. In one situation, a 20- to 25-year-old furnace is being replaced. Customers are offered the choice of standard and energy-efficient water heaters and furnaces.

“In residential applications it could take up to 10 years to recuperate your money,” says Borenstein, “By 10 years, you’re starting repairs on high-efficiency equipment and those repairs are more expensive. I give the pros and cons of both options and let them decide.”

Many homeowners are still waiting to learn what their insurance companies will cover, and the Quebec government has upped flood damage benefits to about $200,000 per home. Borenstein has been explaining to his customers what they cover and how some cover damages from sewer backup, but not from water infiltration.

While Borenstein explained that there is not much he would change in terms of flood season preparation, he will keep more pumps and hoses in stock.

“I’m also asking people to check their pumps,” he says. “They worked well for the flood, but they overworked and it may be time to install a backup pump just to be safe. I’m also making better use of my Facebook page to communicate with clients on measures they can take and how to protect themselves.”


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