Natasha Morris has owned her home since 1983, but has not slept in her own bedroom since July 14. She is currently sleeping on a couch in her southwest Scarborough home after a storm left her basement bedrooms flooded on July 15. Her roommate is sleeping on the floor.
Everything they own in the basement was covered in about a metre of sewage after the storm, Morris said.
After attending an open house on Sept.19 at the Scarborough Village Recreation Centre, she said the city should be doing more to help residents cover the expenses of the cleanup.
“It seems like the city is dumping all the responsibilities for what happened on to the homeowners,” she said. “What [the open house meeting] basically did was reaffirm the fact that the city is not really going to do anything to help us.”
According to Morris, she spent about $40,000 for the cleanup, but was able to claim some of it through her insurance company.
Last Wednesday’s meeting was hosted by Coun. Gary Crawford (Ward 36) and representatives from Toronto Water. At the meeting, residents were given an explanation of how flooding occurs, given options to prevent flooding and were introduced to the city’s Basement Flooding Subsidy Program.
Michael D’Andrea is Director of Water Infrastructure Management for Toronto.
According to D’Andrea, the city’s sewer systems are working as they should. He said the systems were designed to handle large storms that occur on a two to five year frequency. Floods happen because these large storms have occurred more frequently within the past few months, so, the systems become overloaded.
“Once that happens, water begins to pond onto the road, it then begins to back up and pond onto private property and water then makes its way into our waste water collection system,” he said. “Once that system is overloaded, it unfortunately backs up and the point of exit then is the basements because they are at the lower point of elevation.”
D’Andrea said the city is eager to provide residents with options that can help them protect themselves from such flooding.
“The city has a Basement Flooding Protection Program that provides financial subsidies up to $3,200 to install some basic measures to provide a higher level of protection,” he said. “The most basic measure is the installation of a backwater valve, which is installed in the house’s connect to the city’s sewer system.”
According to D’Andrea, the insurance companies are fully supportive of this option and the city will provide a subsidy of $1,250 for the valve installation.
D’Andrea said other options include installing a sump pump or disconnecting the home’s foundation drains (weeping tiles) from the sewer system.
Coun. Gary Crawford said he knows these are the best options for his residents because they have proved successful in Ward 33 Don Valley East where they experienced the same flooding issues.
Crawford said Coun. Shelley Carroll successfully encouraged many of her residents to install sub-water pumps. Last summer, Ward 33 received the same amount of rain, but Carroll’s office did not receive any complaints of flooding.
“She can attest to the fact that if communities work at implementation on their side to deal with the backwater sump pump, then it can greatly improve the risk of having any damage,” Crawford said.
According to Crawford, sump pumps can be installed right away, but residents would have to deal with the initial cost and it would take up six to eight weeks to receive 80 per cent of their money back.
Marianne Mills has lived in the community for 22 years. She said these options are not enough because they do not address the expenses people have already incurred or make it easier to deal with insurance companies.
“Our insurance rates are going to go sky high because we are not feeling like the city is doing enough to fix this problem,” she said. “There are some insurance companies that promise full coverage, but now they are saying the clean-up crew cost $90,000 so now you only have $9,000 to rebuild.”
After the July flood, Mills created a Facebook group to share her experiences and cleanup tips with her neighbours.
Mills said the worst part about her ordeal is that she constantly worries about her home.
“I panic every time it rains. We write on Facebook ‘I can’t sleep, I think we are going to flood,’” she said. “I go to work and I can’t work and all I do is think about my house and how much water am I going to deal with when I get home.”
On Oct. 2, Crawford will submit a request to Toronto’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee for the General Manager of Toronto Water to add Scarborough Southwest to the basement flooding project prioritization list. If successful, Crawford would be able to claim $9.4 million to implement five improvements for combating basement flooding.
These improvements include channeling storm water into a local creek or dry pond, oversizing underground pipes, installing new pipes or underground storage tanks.
“If we can get these five improvements done, then chances are we won’t be having any flooding,” Crawford said.