A failure of politics in Ward 5.

Just 8 days after NDP leader Jagmeet Singh visited residents of Rockcliffe-Smythe, another heavy rainfall inundated the area and a nasty sewage mix flooded many homes. It must be the last straw for families who were flooded as recently as last year. Last week, resident Franco Ruffolo despaired that his house is uninsurable and unsellable because of the regular flooding. Franco, and many others in Toronto and particularly in Ward 5, York South-Weston, constantly dread that heavy rain will lead to the inundation of their homes.

The problem stems from  the fact that as more of the city becomes paved over, runoff from roofs, driveways and streets is dumped directly into channels, rivers and storm sewers which in many parts of the city are combined with the sanitary sewers. This means that rainfall overloads the combined sewers leading to raw sewage being dumped into rivers and eventually into homes – City News.

From Bergen Counties Utility Authority.

In the Rockcliffe-Smythe area, the creek that used to flow naturally through the area (Black Creek) was channelled into a concrete straight jacket. Thanks to heavier rains and more buildings, the channel overflows occasionally with horrible yet predictable results. In other areas, the extra pressure on a combined sewer forces sewage up into homes through basement drains.

What can be done? We need to plant more trees, put up green roofs, divert downspouts so that runoff from roofs drains onto ground where it will be absorbed rather than piped directly into sewers. We also need to separate storm and sanitary sewers so that raw sewage stays out of people’s homes and our rivers and creeks. A few years ago, Toronto instituted a mandatory program to disconnect downspouts where possible. Most of all, we need politicians and agencies to actually do their job and work for the people.

Councillor Nunziata in the City News clip blames the TRCA for dragging its feet. The horrible flooding of six years ago should have propelled all actors in this tragedy to get their act together and do something. Sadly, the councillor even voted against an innovative hard surface charge that would have made homeowners pay for the hard surfaces covering their property. This revenue would have been directed towards flood relief but Giorgio Mammoliti framed it as a roof tax and Council (including Mayor Tory and Ms Nunziata) voted against it.

Perhaps it’s time for politicians and agencies to stop the blame game and actually do something. We can start by accelerating the separation of storm and sanitary sewers in priority areas. Holding tanks can reduce the flow in the meantime and planting trees would help. We also need Council to take this issue seriously.

That’s without even considering the bizarre and troubling sale of 8 acres of Rockcliffe-Smythe flood plain land to St Helen’s Meat Packers Limited for less than $4 million – with the support of Councillor Nunziata.

Incidentally, St Helen’s President Robert Bielak donated (the maximum allowed) $1200 to Ms Nunziata’s 2018 campaign.

As Brian Mulroney used to say, “You dance with those who brung you”.

4 thoughts on “A failure of politics in Ward 5.”

  1. The paving everywhere and foot-dragging from the City and politicians is wrecking havoc, and everyone’s insurance will climb with all the flooding and damage.

    When will the Councillors and politicians get acting: fewer cars, more surveillance of the amount of concrete that’s thrown around everywhere, serious tree planting and fewer developers in charge of adding more and more high rises and parking lots.

    Transit, trees, infrastructure improvements, needed yesterday and even more now!

    Thank you Roy for all this information. And the reminders.

  2. Hi Roy,

    Civil/drainage engineer living in Weston here. You bring up great points. Unfortunately, development is inevitable with our growing City and especially in our neighbourhood. I can assure you that as a civil engineer working on development projects, we truly do our best to mitigate, alleviate, if not eliminate, all drainage issues from new developments.

    On top of your comment of disconnecting all downspouts from the sewer (at which you could pipe towards your garden as a fun home DIY project), if your home is within a basement flooding area or serviced by a combined sewer, I cannot stress the importance and value in installing a backwater valve on your drains.

    I believe the City’s combined sewer is only designed for the 2-year storm and sewage. Any storm event larger than the 2-year will result in the pipes reaching over its capacity and water will want to make its way up through the drains of your home. A backwater valve can prevent this.

  3. The problem on Cordella and Hilldale is that the city graded the approaches to the bridgea at Cliff and Alliance so the roadways trap water rather than allow the water to flow overland into the creek.

    And the city re-routed Lavender Creek into peoples back yards . The creek used to be where Rockcliffe Court is now.

    All over the city, water runs down streets because storm sewers are not built for severe storms. But the assumption is water will run downhill on the road towards the valley. The city needs to stop blaming residents because the roads are not graded properly for drainage!

    High water in the creeks reduces flow in the storm drains. Flow down the roadways can be fixed in a week or two by levelling the roads so they flow downhill.

    A backwater valve doesn’t help when your entire street is underwater! And sewage coming OUT of the sewers just makes it worse.

  4. Let not for get that the development north of Toronto along the black creek is also a large contributing factor. The storm drains in parking lots and roads end up being ejected into the black creek. As it it up hill of rockcliffe there water becomes our problem.

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