June downpour dampens basements, and spirits, of city residents

As fellow columnist Mr. Friday notes, “it’s déjà vu all over again.”
Such was the state of affairs in St. Thomas on June 25, when the region was inundated with about 60 mm of rain over the course of the dinner hour, resulting in flooded basements throughout the city.
The residents of Montgomery Road now have company.
Welcome to homeowners on Parkside Drive, Wawa Street, Chestnut Street and about a dozen other locations where an inflow of water was experienced.
In total, city staff received 32 calls.
A detailed report from Edward Soldo, the city’s new manager of operations and compliance, will be presented to council on Monday.

In a nutshell, existing city sewers cannot handle an intense deluge as was the case several weeks ago.
The system is a combination of sanitary, storm and combined sewers with interconnections and overflows between them, the report notes.
”Stormwater management options are limited by the fact that the existing sewers provided no significant volume of in-line storage,” Soldo explains, “and neither the sanitary nor combined sewers were found to have the capacity to carry storm drainage.
“As a result, in wet weather, there are sewer overflows, treatment plant bypasses and basement flooding.”
Gee, those living on Montgomery Road could have saved staff the trouble of writing that report – they speak from years of experience.
Soldo recommends residents who endured the heartbreak of a flooded basement “submit a claim to their insurance provider related to their expenses.”
Sage advice, unless your policy is null and void as the result of previous water incursions.
“The residents also have a venue to submit a claim to the city as per our claims policy and procedures if there is a reason related to alleged negligence,” Soldo continues.
Be advised — you’ll have to wait your turn. Those same residents of Montgomery Road folks are still waiting for their number to be called.
With a 275-page agenda to deal with Monday night, perhaps the time has come to do away with the quaint tradition of paring back the council schedule to just one per month for the summer.
By the time our elected officials plow through this forest of paperwork, which follows on the heels of an in-camera session, will they still be in a frame of mind to make critical judgment calls on the matters at hand?
Shouldn’t city governance, even during the summer season, demand the full attention to detail of a council that is not glazed over in a hypnotic state by the sheer volume of reports and other paper paraphernalia?
Perhaps upping the schedule to two meetings each in July and August, in the realization life may take on a slow easy pace at this time however the business of maintaining this city’s competitive advantage doesn’t take a summer holiday, should be a strong consideration before the 2010 municipal election.
Having said that, what are the chances such a proposal will get lost in a paper blizzard somewhere?
It should come as no surprise the loss to fire of Alma College in May, 2008 tops Heritage Canada Foundation’s worst losses list for the past year.
After all the historic school for girls topped the foundation’s Top Ten Endangered List not that long ago. It was inevitable that destruction by neglect, the accumulative toll of the elements and ultimately the allure of the vacant hulk as a haven for vandals would bring the main building to its knees.
However a fitting epitaph should read, “Alma succumbed due to of a lack of will by elected officials at all levels and the crass indifference of its owners.”
In a strange twist of fate, meantime, an image of Alma can be seen in the Leonardo DiCaprio-produced Orphan, which opens in theatres later this month.
Portrayed as an ever-so-creepy institution, the type of vision that can keep you sleep deprived weeks after viewing the film, perhaps this is the grand old lady coming back to forever haunt those who betrayed her.
Included in the pages of Monday’s massive agenda is Part 2 of the 2009 capital budget which calls for council to approve almost $2.3 million in expenditures.
One of the projects being pushed is the re-establishment of the north-south railway connection of the former London & Port Stanley Railway line from Wellington Street north to the CN mainline near the old Wabash station.
Good news for those who have pushed long and hard to preserve the railway heritage of St. Thomas.
The cost of this link is in the range of $400,000, to be funded through grants.
Also of note, $15,000 to establish a leash-free dog park in a yet-to-be determined location, but you have to lean toward the back area of Pinafore Park.
The city is also looking to raise an additional $10,000 for the project from within the community.
As stated before in this corner, drive north to one of the dog parks in London to appreciate the full value of what really is a minimal investment.
“I’d like them to at least acknowledge that it wasn’t any one’s fault down here.”
Parkside Drive resident Jamie Mcwilliam after suffering $7,500 damage to his basement following a heavy downpour.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: mccallum@stthomastimesjournal.com.

5 thoughts on “June downpour dampens basements, and spirits, of city residents


    Report TR 29-08 on Build Canada Fund indicated “the new Police Headquarters Building was the highest priority” as determined by this council.

    Other potential projects discussed were; Airport Terminal; Old Valleyview; Wellington Street reconstruction; Greenhouses – Pinafore Park; Trails System (implementation of Trails Master plan); Parks (including Joanne Brooks Park); Library Renovations; Talbot Streetscape Strategy/ project; Courthouse (purchase, renovation); Re-establishment of Rail Corridor

    Sewers did not receive honorable mention or consideration.

    Yet, Stantec Consultants, hired in 2006, reported to this council in June 2007, their key finding which stated that “The capacity of Woodworth Sewer Pumping Station (SPS) is insufficient to meet current flow requirements”.

    Then in March 2008 Stantec Consultants presented short-term (0-2 years) recommendations to this council, estimated to be $2 – $3 million, with another $3 million for mid to long term recommendations, yet no application was made for infrastructure funding for these projuects.

    Frankly, I just don’t get it.
    An interesting article published last month by Ecojustice titled “Flushing Out the Truth”


    “Much of the untreated waste made its way into water bodies through sewage bypasses — diversions which carry excess sewage to lakes or rivers when treatment plants are over capacity or have technical problems.
    Added to that are combined sewage overflows, which occur in older systems where stormwater and sewage from sinks, toilets and drains gush along the same pipe. Bad weather can cause the pipes to overflow into a lake or river.
    It’s the wastewater equivalent of fixing gridlock by letting cars drive on sidewalks.”

    Bill Sandison
    Advocate for a Better Municipal Government
    STR8TALK in St. Thomas

    • Was the March 2008 Stantec Consultant report only about the Woodworth pumping station or the entire St. Thomas system in general? Landowners in the Eastwood Subdivision have been advised that sewer system will replace existing septic systems in 2010, contruction to begin Sept. 2009, and they are implementing homeowners to hook up in 9 months after completion? The concern for many landowners are we being forced prematurely to hook up into a sytem already working at full capacity and requiring millions of dollars in upgrades when our septic systems are still working.

  2. It is the proposal of the Central Elgin Council to install sanitary sewers along Elmwood Ave., Bailey Ave., and Paul Street, replace existing watermain and storm sewer system and reconstruct curb, gutter and sidewalk. Project is to begin September 2009. As residents in this Eastwood Subdivision we would like to know if the existing pumping system can handle waste water storm run off and sewage from 65+ households next year? Also, do you know were we could get more information regarding this matter?

  3. Kathryn and Jamie: You’ve raised valid issues with the sanitary sewers. I’ve asked Bill Sandison (who has posted previously about the Stantec Report) to post info that may be of use to you. Ian

  4. Kathryn and Jamie,

    The Stantec presentation addressed the north-east quadranr of the city and included the Burwell Road SPS, Confederation Street SPS and the Woodward Avenue SPS.
    If you would like a copy of the presentation (9 slides) let me know by e-mail at bgsandison@rogers.com and I will forward to you.

    I would suspect all our sewage infrastructure is in some need of repair/upgrade.


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