Cause of some St. John’s flooding may take months to determine

Dave Bartlett
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Pat Dillon faces a big cleanup job of his stables at the Goulds racetrack following weekend flooding. Dillon said there was as much as nine inches of water in parts of the building. He owns four horses at the facility and cares for four others. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

It will be at least a couple of weeks before the City of St. John’s completes its investigation into exactly what caused some of the flooding in the city on Sunday and Monday.

But Paul Mackey, the city’s director of public works, told The Telegram Tuesday work has begun on cleanup and repairs.

“Repairs are underway ... in terms of the obvious above-ground stuff — road shoulders, washouts, potholes,” he said. “That ... started (Monday) and it will continue for several days.”

But Mackey said a review of some of the potential underground issues — both pipes and storm sewers — may take months.

He said city crews are visiting homes that flooded to determine what caused each case and how the problem can be fixed.

“Based on the preliminary findings, we might have to go back and do some cleaning,” Mackey added.

He said that may involve sewer jets or putting cameras down into pipes.

“We have to be sure what the problem is. We can’t just assume there’s a capacity problem, it could be a blockage or collapse in one particular spot,” Mackey said.

He hope to have a preliminary report for council within a couple of weeks.

While Mackey said dozens of homes in the city were flooded, he didn’t have final numbers.

When questioned about the speed of the clean-up, including filling pot holes that were gouged out by the weather, Mackey said crews have been working on repairs since the storm ended and will work late today to get as much done as possible.

He also said snow clearing crews and equipment have been reassigned to help.

But Mackey said at this time of year, when the city depends on its own small asphalt recycler, the process is slow.

The city had hoped to get a commercial asphalt plant opened earlier this year as it needs to pave parts of Portugal Cove and Merrymeeting roads following water main breaks in January.

But Mackey said the contractor wasn’t able to get the plant reopened, partly due to cold weather, so the city has to maintain those areas with gravel until at least early April when he said the contractor will try again to get the plant up and running.

The Telegram also asked the city why it wasn’t liable for repairs to people’s homes caused by flooding.

A city spokeswoman directed the paper to provincial legislation.

Section 170 of the City of St. John’s Act reads that “the city shall not be liable for a loss or damage to property resulting from flooding by water occasioned by rainstorms or thaws, or the breaking of a water main or sewer pipe for a cause over which the city has no control.”

The city, therefore would only be liable if it was proven to be negligent.

In Mount Pearl, public works director Gerry Antle said there was no major damage, but city crews were out Tuesday doing cleanup.

“We had some gravel and debris get in to some our storm sewers systems, in the grates and the catch basins there on Topsail Road,” Antle said.

Antle said the city had about 10 calls regarding residential flooding over the weekend, but suggested most of those cases were because of the unique weather, including 65 mm of rain over a short period of time, high winds and a lot of snow on the frozen ground.

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Portugal Cove, Mount Pearl, Topsail Road

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Recent comments

  • stephen
    February 16, 2012 - 09:03

    In my opinion the city is at fault for alot of the flooding. A lot of our water drainage systems and storm sewers are over 70 years old, and without proactive maintenance done on these pipes they're bound to back up and cause flooding . i don't know where our tax dollars go but it would be nice to see them spent on road maintenance, water and sewer maintenance, and god forbid maybe even a little bit of snow clearing!!! *shocked face*

  • Robert
    February 15, 2012 - 09:07

    Looking at the iconic views of St. john's Harbour it isn't very hard to see it as a rather large kitchen sink. Water from as far away as Paradise rushes into the harbour every time it rains; the more rain the more capacity that is needed. And as the city continues to grow the trees and wetlands that slowed the rush of water is lost. I am sure that there are drainage pipes under St. John's older then most of us and repairs/replacement is an ever ongoing challenge. However, there is a quite simple solution that would delay the rush of heavy rains and that is done with manmade ponds. Travel almost anywhere in the southern USA and you will see these areas often become the focal point of a neighbourhood. During dry spells they are just a nicely grassed area but during wet spells waterfowl, water mammels and even fish seem to find a home. In the winter I could see neighbourhood skating rinks. I would suggest as new areas (DW ville) are built that these manmade ponds are needed to prevent some of the flooding in lower St. John's.