New start for some Kelowna seniors washed out by broken sprinkler head - InfoNews

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New start for some Kelowna seniors washed out by broken sprinkler head

Five stories of scaffolding are part of the restoration project underway at the new Apple Valley seniors home in Kelowna.
May 31, 2019 - 4:00 PM

KELOWNA - There was great fanfare as politicians from all levels of government formally opened phase three of the Apple Valley seniors subsidized housing project last fall.

For many who moved into the 48 new units in October 2018, it was a chance to live out their retirement in some financial comfort and to make new friends.

But the dream of an affordable home came to a drenching end for around a third of the tenants after a sprinkler head on the fifth floor of the five-storey building broke loose and poured water down through all levels of the complex on Feb. 7.

“This is the most trying disaster our tenants and the society has ever experienced,” Ken Zeitner, chief financial officer for the Society of Hope, told

The Society operates 17 facilities with almost 700 units, of which Apple Valley is the newest.

Zeitner doesn’t know the cause of the sprinkler leak. The cause is in the hands of the insurance company to sort out, as is the ongoing effort to get the mess cleaned up.

Initially, five units had to be evacuated but, as time went on, 10 more neighbouring suites had to be vacated.

“People’s belongings have to be removed and put into storage, they have to have a place to live for the next few months and then, when the building’s ready, their stuff has to be moved back in,” Zeitner said. “It’s like moving twice.”

Those remaining in the building don’t really know what’s going on.

“The only thing we know is, they’re working on it,” Andy Thomsen told “Why the hell is it taking so long and who is picking up the tab.”

One woman, who contacted on behalf of a relative living in the building, was concerned about signs she photographed warning of dangerous mould in the building. She didn’t want herself or her relative identified but did send in photos of the warning signs.

This submitted photo shows a sign was posted inside the Apple Valley building.
This submitted photo shows a sign was posted inside the Apple Valley building.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED

Testing for mould is part of the reason it’s taking so long to get the job done, Zeitner said.

As the work progresses, samples have to sent to labs for testing in case there is dangerous mould and the danger warning signs are simply safety precautions, Zeitner said.

A worker outside the building said if there was any risk of contamination, he wouldn’t be going in without a respirator and suit on. He would not give his name.

Zeitner said he provides updates to tenants when there is something new to report.

“We don’t have a firm date as to when the restoration will be completed,” he said. “That’s frustrating for us because we can’t give a time frame to our tenants. We feel bad about that but we’re simply not in control. We’re subject to all the legislation and health and safety stuff. Our insurer, through the adjuster, is essentially in control of the process.”

Because of privacy legislation, he can’t give out contact information to neighbours for those who have been evacuated.

“This is a very trying disaster for everybody involved,” he said. “There’s a lot of frustration because there are so many unknowns until you start to pull stuff out. You have to check for mould, have to check for other substances that might be hazardous. They have to check them each step along the way.”

As for who pays, some tenants have insurance. The Society of Hope also has basic coverage for those who are uninsured but it's limited, Zeitner said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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