As the waters of Lake Ontario continue to rise, Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake officials say they are working hard to prevent properties from being flooded.
But if wind, waves and more rain cause water to breach the town's barriers, homes could be damaged, an emergency public meeting was told Friday.
Brett Ruck, the town’s manager of environmental services, told the crowd of about 25 people at the NOTL Community Centre the main priority now is flood prevention.
The water level in Lake Ontario has already passed the 2017 record of 75.75 metres. As of Friday, May 31, the water had crept up to 75.88 metres, Ruck said.
If the efforts to contain the flood waters fail, residents would have to be ready to take action and protect their homes. About 500 properties and homes in the dock area would be affected if the water level reaches 76 metres, he said. Ruck has previously told The Lake Report that residents may have to be evacuated if flooding occurs.
“This is a double-edged sword for us. We’re bringing people in here to say that you need to start seriously thinking about if this isn’t contained and something were to happen,” he said, noting the town is supplying sandbags to residents.
The high water levels are expected to return to normal in late November, so protections would have to stay in place until late August, said Ruck.
Sandbags are available at Collingwood Street, Nelson Park and at the parking lot at the River Beach Drive. A new batch will arrive on Monday, he said.
With check valves keeping the lake water out of the sewers and with pumps placed in the drains, town staff also started to place flood protection bladders along Melville Street. The town is also working to protect the sewage system by sealing manholes in the area so the sanitary sewer system doesn't overflow, said Ruck.
The fire department is helping the town’s operations department to prepare support services such as volunteer evacuation or temporary housing in case of a breach, said Nick Ruller, the deputy fire chief.
Meanwhile, town staff will continue visiting homes in the affected area to deliver notices, which include emergency contact numbers.
The issue of E. coli in Lake Ontario was brought up by one resident but Ruck said the town has taken measures to minimize the overflow of the sewer system and doesn't expect it to be a “full-on problem in the near future.”
Tim Curtis, president of NOTL Hydro, said there are seven transformers in the area that could be at risk. However, the water will only become an issue if it rises above the concrete pad that a transformer is installed on. If there are power outages due to a flood, NOTL Hydro would work on case-by-case to reroute the power, Curtis told The Lake Report.
A resident of the King’s Point condominium development, Graham Bailey, said owners there rely on an exterior pump as water can run into the building's electrical room via a hydro conduit.
“That little pump is saving our lives,” said Bailey. “Without that, we’re dead in the water.”
Virgil resident Cory Abt asked what the air cadets, Virgil Business Association or the public could do to help the town. One of the residents said considering many dock area residents are seniors, they would like to have some volunteer help.
A number of town councillors were on hand at the meeting. Lord Mayor Betty Disero thanked residents for building a rock and soil berm last weekend.