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Sunday, July 14, 2024
Heavy rains, flooding raise infrastructure concerns in St. Davids
The basement of Walter and Anne Blackwell's home on Kent Street in Queenston following a massive rainfall in August of 2023. SUPPLIED
A property on Kent Street in Queenston following the most recent heavy rainfall in mid-June. Improper water drainage is the main culprit endangering homes say residents. SUPPLIED
Clarence Street in Queenston runs parrallel to Mary Ann Dunlops home but is in such poor shape, the Kent Street resident believes it may be causing her flooding issues after heavy rainfalls. SUPPLIED
A Property on Kent Street in Queenston looks like a lake following a recent heavy rainfall. Residents of the area say neglected town infrastructure is putting them out thousands and risking their homes. SUPPLIED

Mayor says town is spending thousands to update aging sewer systems


Extreme summer weather and torrential downpours this week and over the past month in Niagara-on-the-Lake have created calls from residents for upgraded municipal infrastructure to protect homes and properties against flash floods.

While much of the region was exposed to repeated heavy rains that began almost in sequence with a scorching heat wave in mid-June, residents in St. Davids and Queenston are being vocal about their displeasure with old and new infrastructure.

Heavy rains in late June dumped several inches of rain on town, flooding the golf course, area creeks and some homes.

And this week, as Hurricane Beryl rolled through the U.S. and its entrails hit southern Ontario on Wednesday with up to “a month’s worth of rain in a day,” as one meteorologist suggested, it seems there will be no respite from the summer storms.

Concerns are particularly acute in St. Davids and Queenston.

“St. Davids storm sewers can’t support yet another subdivision,” said Sharon Brinsmead-Taylor in a Facebook post, which featured videos of the corner of Warner and Tanbark roads ankle-deep in water.

“We cannot support more housing until our infrastructure is updated,” she wrote.

That was June 18, the same day the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority issued a flood warning for NOTL.

“The recent thunderstorms that occurred this morning brought up to 45 mm (1.75 inches) of rain in the eastern regions of the Niagara Peninsula watershed,” it stated. 

“This accumulation of rain falling within a short period of time has caused creeks and tributaries to become inundated with runoff and water levels continue to rise in the Four Mile Creek watershed.”

What that warning didn’t state, said Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa, was the rainfall on that day in St. Davids was so great in volume and intensity there was nothing the town could have done to stop the overflow.

“In the St. Davids area on that day, they experienced three-and-a-half inches of rain in less than an hour and that’s almost a 500-year rain event,” Zalepa said.

The in-ground infrastructure, he said, is simply not built to manage that volume of water in that short period of time.

“It was definitely problematic, but I would not say that’s because of over-development,” he added.

In Queenston, a much older community with aging infrastructure, Kent Street residents Walter and Anne Blackwell, and their neighbour Mary Ann Dunlop, have been in a losing battle with Mother Nature dating back to well before June’s heavy rainfalls.

“In our case, although we do have a water table issue, this is a sewer connection issue,” said Walter Blackwell. He believes it is a municipal issue and not something he nor his neighbours should be dealing with. 

“Our house is connected to the (town) through a sewer pipe. The fluids came back up through the sewer pipe, the storm drains were blocked … and the fluids came into the house.”

His property has been flooded twice and his basement once since last summer, costing the couple about $10,000 in insurance deductibles and personal repair costs.

The unwanted water table issue that he and Dunlop share is also a town problem, said Blackwell. 

“It is definitely that the storm sewers can’t handle the rain and, as a result, all that water comes down the street from (Dunlop’s) place and down the side of our property. It’s only a matter of time before it takes out my firewood shed.”

Dunlop has spent close to $70,000 fixing water damage to her basement and upgrading other portions of her home and yard for better protection.

The damage she has experienced is caused by neglected drainage infrastructure on the outer edges of her property line, she said.

It has not been maintained, she said, because there is a nondescript and narrow roadway that runs beside her house, which the town has either forgotten about or of which it doesn’t want to take ownership.

The asphalt roadway, called Clarence Street, is downward-sloping, crumbling and neglected.

Residents feel it could be a source of the neighbourhood’s water seepage problems since it is poorly maintained.

Dunlop believes it is part of the old road infrastructure let over from prior to the building of the Niagara Parkway.

The Parkway runs parallel to Clarence Street and Dunlop’s home, with just a few metres separating the two. 

Dunlop said she would like someone in government to take ownership of the road and check for drainage issues.

“Whenever there are surveys or anything done around here, there are people from the town who have never been in this community who assume my property bumps right up against the Parkway,” she said.

The reality, however, is the road is not right up against her property.

She and Blackwell say the town has neglected essential and aging infrastructure in Queenston for many years.

The lord mayor disagrees with that assertion.

“I am not going into specifically to their addresses but infrastructure is not being neglected,” he said. “It is old and that’s not uncommon in the municipality and anywhere in the country.”

Zalepa said he wants to assure residents that infrastructure is not only being addressed in all neighbourhoods and that staff is working hard on areas of concern.

And “an additional $750,000 has been placed into culvert (repair/maintenance) and issues like this.”

Dunlop and the Blackwells do feel Queenston is getting the attention it deserves.

“I can understand why a resident would feel that way,” said Zalepa.

”There is definitely an impact to people when there is an issue. This council has increased its budget to capital contribution quite significantly from the past, but it is a long road ahead.”


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