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”.

Jagmeet Singh promises flood relief

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh visited York South-Weston today and heard from local residents about flooding issues in the riding. Accompanying Mr. Singh were many well known NDP faces in the area including MPP, Faisal Hassan, upcoming federal election candidate Yafet Tewelde and local organizer Chiara Padovani who conducted the tour. Mr Singh, an affable and attentive man spent a couple of hours in the area.

The leader walked from Rockcliffe Court to Hilldale Road to hear some of the issues that have not been dealt with despite years of local flooding. The recent sale of 8 acres of city owned flood plain land at 200 Rockcliffe Court exposed some of the less savoury aspects of decision making in our fair city.

The contentious land at 200 Rockcliffe.

The land was sold off to a meat packing plant in spite of residents’ objections. This is an area that routinely floods after a storm and where nearby, in a recent event, two men almost drowned in an elevator as water flooded the building they were in. Read more in this excellent article here.

Chiara Padovani talks about the controversial city decision to sell flood plain land to a meat packer.
Faisal Hassan, Jagmeet Singh and Yafet Tewelde listen to the 200 Rockcliffe story.
Jagmeet Singh and Yafet Tewelde greet Hilldale Road residents.

At Hilldale Road, local resident Franco Ruffolo opened his home to show the extent of flooding he and his neighbours have faced in the past few years. Franco showed some video of the water levels and damage that his property sustained and outlined the inadequate settlements from insurance companies. Residents in the area worry that insurance companies will no longer issue policies on their homes.

Franco Ruffolo shows Jagmeet Singh video of his home flooding.

Jagmeet Sing is proposing that instead of matching funds with the city and province, an NDP government would pay the whole cost of flood remediation work so that homeowners in flood prone areas are better protected and don’t need to wait for all three levels of government to agree. He is promising $2.5 billion to respond to disasters and support communities like York South – Weston to adapt their infrastructure to withstand floods and other extreme weather events.

The tour went off well and made some strong points. Mr. Singh delivered some concluding remarks at the end of his visit and then spoke live to the media.

Local candidate Yafet Tewelde added some remarks.

Flooding an election issue

The recent flooding in Mount Dennis and Weston is becoming an election issue. In  2017, Frances Nunziata voted against a hard-surface charge that would have paid to fix flooding infrastructure; now Chiara Padovani, one of her competitors, is taking the lead, holding a meeting with homeowners and advocating for a bridge on Janerecommended at least as far back as 2014—to mitigate flooding.
From Chiara Padovani
 
Sophie Van Waeyenberghe, via The Star
A maddening article in The Star describes the lost opportunities, and the serious costs to Mount Dennis homeowners:
An earlier study by the Toronto Region and Conservation Authority identified some possible solutions, such as building a Jane St. bridge over the Humber River, but the cost is estimated in the tens of millions of dollars. “We should be the priority when we’re in a high-risk area,” Padovani said. “Make no mistake — other parts of the city are getting funded.” Even though flooding has been a prevalent issue in the area for decades, fixing the problem needs political will, Padovani said. She referred to the sale of the flood plain-adjacent land at 200 Rockcliffe Ct. to a meat packing plant, lands that could have helped mitigate the problem. “We had land that should have been seen as valuable, to protect our homes,” she said. “This is the biggest example of neglect.”
Frances Nunziata, while recently softening, has long been a fiscal conservative (except on the wasteful Scarborough Subway).

Possible flooding solution rejected in 2017.

A man walks under Weston’s Lawrence Avenue bridge the day after the floods of July 2013 (file).

One of the problems of living in a big city is that much of the surface is paved over. When it rains, water drains quickly and can raise river and stream levels as well as create flooding in low lying areas. The solution is well known. Plant trees, build green roofs and where possible create temporary holding tanks for sudden water flows. To pay for this, staff last year proposed charging homeowners for the amount of non-absorbing roof and parking surface on their property. These are the people creating the problem so it’s fair that they should help pay for the solution. When Toronto’s Executive Committee considered the matter, following the Mayor’s direction, they recommended voting against the charges.

Councillor Nunziata voted with the mayor when the matter came to a full meeting of council but today has issued a helpful email itemizing what to do if your basement floods. That will be of small comfort to the many people whose lives have been disrupted yet again.

Running a big city costs money. Without a mayor and council with the courage to do the right thing, ordinary people are left to suffer the consequences. Charging people for the runoff they create would encourage a reduction in stormwater runoff and help pay for larger-scale flood prevention measures.

Instead of following staff recommendations, Mayor Tory and Councillors Mammoliti, Nunziata and others seemed place their trust in the short memory of voters, believing their re-election chances are more important than flooded basements. Kindred spirit Giorgio Mammoliti framed the charge as a ‘roof tax’ that would not play well in the suburbs.

Are voters really that stupid?

Today in Weston. January 13, 2018

Ice floes litter the ground in Raymore Park today after Thursday’s rain prompted a break-up of the ice covering the Humber. The river is at the base of the retaining wall on the left of the picture. Click to enlarge.

Almost every year, a warm spell causes the Humber’s banks to flood causing a  break-up of ice covering the river. As the ice breaks up it blocks the flow of water and behind the dynamically forming dam, large chunks float over the now widened river and are stranded there as each section of the ice-dam gives way and the water recedes. It’s a fairly rapid process that’s hard to catch but you certainly don’t want to be in the path of these monsters as they float up to 50 metres from shore.

Floating chunks of ice have destroyed fencing around the sewer re-lining work just north of the weir. Click to enlarge.

Hans Havermann has some excellent images from both sides of the river, taken yesterday while it was still blocked.

Raymore Retaining Wall Complete.

A panoramic view of the new retaining wall. Click for a larger image.

The retaining wall that was originally to cost $250,000 is now complete and it’s a thing of beauty. The cost has probably risen considerably since the staging area had to be paved with rubble.

The new wall should protect the homes along the edge of the east Humber for centuries. The large limestone blocks in the wall will also provide a home for small animals such as mink.

The temporary bridge spanning the Humber that was used to access the far shore has been removed and the course of the river is back to where it was. All that remains is to restore and replant the staging area then upgrade the Pan Am Path. This should be completed once the sewage pipe upgrade and leash free zone have been completed, possibly by fall 2017.