Residents’ frustration with flood damage overflows

Kevin Higgins
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Questions raised on how Gander council plans to prevent future flooding

Gander resident Claude House, right, listens as Gander’s Municipal Works and Services Director James Blackwood answers questions regarding last weekend’s flooding in the town.
Kevin Higgins/The Beacon

When are you going to fix Peterson and Blackwood (drives) … and Edinburgh?”

It was Claude House’s first question when he was given an opportunity to ask Town of Gander officials about damage caused by flooding after more than 125 millimetres of rain soaked the town Aug. 30-31.

 House was among more than 20 residents who joined the media at a question-and-answer session Wednesday afternoon in council chambers. Gander Mayor Claude Elliott and municipal works and services director James Blackwood tried to detail such aspects of how much rain fell, what the town did to prepare, how its sewer system handled the amount of rainfall, and what residents should do if their home was flooded.

However, residents attending weren’t as interested in these details as they were in finding out why certain areas of the town have experienced similar problems numerous times during the past four years. They asked why infrastructure wasn’t improved during this time, if commercial development in certain areas overloaded the sewer system, and how the town plans to correct the problems, especially in the areas that have experienced past flooding.

“You can’t let it happen anymore. There’s people up there now who can not afford the insurance premiums, so they’re up there now dealing with a situation. They have to fix it, but they don’t have any insurance at all,” said House, whose brother-in-law and daughter both were affected by flooding in the Peterson  and Blackwood drives area. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s the town’s responsibility.

“So when are you going to fix Peterson and Blackwood?”

Blackwood said he didn’t know, explaining on how money is spent in the town is determined by its council. However, he did say sewer work in the area of Blackwood and Peterson drives was part of a consultant’s report to separate the storm and sewer systems.

He said even if the recommended system had been in place it might not have handled the flow of water that hit Gander last Friday and early Saturday morning.

Blackwood, using a chart, pointed out more than 50 mm of rain fell between 11:30 p.m. and 2:30 a.m., with close to 40 mm falling between 12:30-1:30 a.m.

He said the Gander’s sewer system meets all provincial government specifications, and is more than adequate to handle higher-than-average rainfall.

“But this wasn’t just more than average. It was an amount that statistics show should only occur every 100 years,” he said, noting the system-wide backup, which affected households spread throughout the town, was not associated with any specific part of the town’s infrastructure or any structural blockage or equipment failure.

Residents in attendance were not appeased. Their frustration continued and they demanded to know what would be done to prevent such flooding from occurring again.

The town reported it had received 106 reports of household flooding so far, and officials are encouraging anyone who has experienced damage by last weekend’s storm to contact the town hall. It is also recommends residents contact their insurance companies.

To assist affected homeowners, the town has changed the dates of its cleanup period. It will now take place Sept. 9-20, and will occur on the regular waste collection day for residents within this time period.

Organizations: Gander council, Claude House

Geographic location: Gander, Edinburgh

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