McGill University Flooding Could Lead to Lawsuit

By: Justin Leung on January 31, 2013

Earlier this week, McGill University was flooded by rapidly moving water that has left ice and debris soaking the floors of at least five of the campus buildings.  The incident occurred when the McTavish Reservoir up the road from McGill suffered a break in its water mains. University staff say the school will file an insurance claim, and possibly a lawsuit against the Reservoir.

The flooding occurred on January 28 after one of the largest water mains at the McTavish Reservoir burst, allowing water to flow rapidly downhill for 4 hours.  The flooding spread across the campus and damaged at least five different structures, including several buildings that house the University’s laboratories.  Engineering students rallied to construct a makeshift dam to protect one of the engineering buildings, while a film crew captured footage of one student being swept away by the floodwater – thankfully no injuries were reported.

McGill Vice-Principal Michael Di Grappa says dozens of classes were forced to be cancelled or evacuated during the flooding, and he estimates that the damages will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair.  Di Grappa says the school will likely submit a flood insurance claim to compensate some of the damages, but the administration is mainly focused on getting students back to classes.

“Right now we’re focusing on reviewing and renewing our normal activities as soon as possible.”

Students say this is the third time in only four years that McTavish Reservoir has flooded McGill, though none of the previous incidents were as bad as the recent episode.  Josh Redel is the President of the McGill Student Society, and says the repeated flooding poses a threat to students.  He says many of the damaged buildings provide services that are vital to the University’s operations, and believes the owners of the Reservoir must be pressured to prevent another flood.

“The flood theoretically shouldn’t have taken place if there were proper infrastructures in place around the reservoir area.”

Redel says he will encourage McGill to launch a lawsuit against the McTavish Reservoir, though Di Grappa says the university hasn’t fully considered its options yet.