Flood victims struggle to get the information and help they need - bureaucrats talk a lot, politicians get caught in the middle.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

October 22, 2014



A second citizens group has been set up to deal with the flooding problems that resulted from that August 4th flood. This group, known as Halton Residents Against Sewage Backup and Flooding (HRASBF) has been a little more active at the social media level and expects at some point that it will join forces with Burlington Sewer Back-up Victims Coalition (BSBVC)

Differentiating between the two groups can be confusing so we will call them the “Victims” and the “Advocates”.

Flood rally Oct  25-14The “advocates” once met with ward five council member Paul Sharman at what he wanted to call a private meeting held in a church. It was clear at that meeting that the residents had more information than the council member who admitted that his problem was getting information out of the Regional level of government.

The “advocates have called a public meeting for Friday, October 24th – from 4:30 to 6:30 at Fortino’s Plaza

Sharman, to his credit, got the Region to do a study of flooding in July – before the August storm because there had been persistent flooding in his ward.
The flooding issue has come close to defining Sharman’s re-election campaign.
Jack Dennison, who is running for re-election in ward four claimed he had inspected more than 1000 basements.

Peter Rusin, who is running for the office of Mayor said Mayor Goldring’s absence from last night’s meeting was less than encouraging. If I was elected Mayor, it would not be resident groups requesting meetings or pressuring for solutions. I would set up a series of workshops involving Regional Engineers, City Engineers, the Conservation Authority and possibly include representatives from both the federal government and the insurance industry.

“My goal” said Rusin, ” would be to fast track and prioritize future remediation measures such as capital projects for new storm water ponds, greater erosion control, flow capacity consideration and emergency plan measures.”

This is a difficult time for those involved in the politics of wards four and five – there are some terribly painful human tragedies going on in hundreds of households but there isn’t all that much a candidate can actually do.

The need for the flood victims is financial but unless a home owner was uninsured or under insured they will not benefit from the funds being raised by citizens through the Burlington Community Foundation.

The frustration in the community comes through in the email chatter – some of which we set out below.

The email chatter:

Christine Thorpe

Christina Thorpe, spokesperson for the Halton Residents Against Sewage Backup and Flooding (HRASBF) speaking at a community meeting at Glad Tidings church on Guelph Line.

From: Harnum, Jim [mailto:Jim.Harnum@halton.ca]
Sent: October 21, 2014 9:25 AM
To: ‘Christina Thorpe’
Subject: RE: Flood
Hi Christina,
Sorry for the delay in responding, I was out at an offsite meeting yesterday. The magnitude of this storm was unprecedented in Halton Region, in the past we had only experienced 20 to 30 flood claims per year vs 3000 in one week. We did not have this pamphlet prepared until after we received feedback from the community, that more information was required.
With respect to your second point, please accept my apologies for the impression that I was downplaying the impact or magnitude. I was merely stating the facts concerning the dilution factor of the water in basements. I recognize that this has been a terrible event for thousands of individuals and by no means was I downplaying the impacts. A storm of this magnitude would have overwhelmed any system in Canada as sanitary sewers are not designed to handle rain water, especially at these magnitudes.
Jim Harnum, CET, MBA Commissioner, Public Works

Thorpe responds:

From: Christina Thorpe [mailto:christinaathorpe@gmail.com]
Sent: Sunday, October 19, 2014 10:16 PM
To: Harnum, Jim
Subject: Re: Flood
Hello Jim,
With all due respect, hard copies should have been mailed or hand delivered to each resident within a few days of the backups/flooding with the ex-gratia grants. Does the region realize how many residents were blindsided by restoration companies and contractors? These restoration companies charged exorbitant fees and did not do proper clean up and residents were none the wiser, and according to the Ontario Environment Safety Network (OESN), every home they visited in Burlington was inadequately cleaned and tested.
I, personally, don’t appreciate your downplay of the situation. My children have unexplained rashes on their legs and face. I have seen exhaustion in elderly folks and those who are not well. The region should be holding information sessions for residents in this aftermath in conjunction with the public health department.

Jim gets back to Christina:

Jeff Brooks - hand to head

Jeff Brooks, candidate for the ward three council seat speaks at the Glad Tidings meeting.

On Sun, Oct 19, 2014 at 9:16 PM, Harnum, Jim <Jim.Harnum@halton.ca> wrote:
Hi Christina,
Residents can get hard copies at Region offices or they can call 311 and we will mail them out one. ‎During the Aug 4 flood, the ratio of rainwater to sewage was very high, in other words the majority of water in basements was rainwater mixed with a very small volume of sewage. Therefore the threat to health was very small. As far as fecal mater in weeping tiles, most plumbing would be thoroughly flushed after another heavy rainfall, which we have had several since the flood. If a homeowner did still have a concern they could enlist the services of a plumber to send a camera into weeping tiles to review the condition. I hope this helps and answers your questions.
Jim Harnum, CET, MBA, Commissioner of Public Works


Christina responds again:

From: Christina Thorpe
Sent: Sunday, October 19, 2014 8:48 PM
To: Harnum, Jim
Subject: Re: Flood
Hi Jim,
Where can the hard copies of the guide be found? Did elderly home owners who do not have access to computers, those who lost their computers or those who no longer drive receive copies from the region?
Also, you have not answered the question of fecal matter stuck in the weeping tile and drains. How is the region responding to this?
Christina Thorpe
On 2014-10-19, at 6:17 PM, Harnum, Jim wrote:


Derek Johnston joins the chatter and gets a response:

Hello Mr. Johnston,
> Thank you for the information, I will review the situation that occurred on Mcraney Avenue in the past to see if there are similarities. As far as the health and wellbeing of homeowners, Halton has also been very proactive in this area. Although we cannot go into residences to review the presence of mold or other contaminants, we have worked closely with our Public Health Department and developed very comprehensive material on our website to help homeowners understand the issues.

We have also developed a very detailed guide titled “A guide to Flooding Prevention and Recovery”. This guide has all of the information that homeowners in Halton would need to help protect themselves from future flooding events and how to ensure that their homes are safe if they do experience flooding. The website link is below and the guide is located here as well. The guide is also produced in hardcopy for those who do not have access to a computer.

Jim Harnum, CET, MBA, > Commissioner, Public Works
> —–Original Message—–
Johnston sends a polite response:

From: Derek Johnston [mailto:derek@soundmaskcanada.com]
> Sent: Sunday, October 19, 2014 4:44 PM
> To: Harnum, Jim
> Cc: Paul Sharman; Phil Cavanagh; Christina Thorpe; Bob Vrenjak; Carr, Gary; matt johnston; Linda Johnston; peterrusin@royallepage.ca
> Subject: Flood
> Thank you Jim

Nicole Dunn HRASB

Nicole Dunn, part of the (HRASBF) talked about the health issues related to the flooding. She thinks they are serious and being overlooked by the Regional bureaucrats.

> We are not done yet but i am impressed by the quality of your response and by the fact that it came out so promptly on a Sunday afternoon,.
> You might want to take a look at what happened on Mcraney avenue 20 years back it was remarkably similar to the Tuck Creek overflow . The City of Oakville picked up the tab for all repairs to a large number of flooded homes My serious concern at this point is the most vulnerable flood damaged people. There are a lot of elderly people in our neighbourhood. I am concerned that sewage damage which is not immeadiately apparent might be missed leaving a festering disease and mold Infested condition with possible deadly ramifications. Is there any way we can make sure that all houses are safe. Please be advised i am aware of several homes where damage to the piping did not become apparent until weeks after the flood , Sewer gas smell and backed up sewage pipes were discovered. i want to be sure that all flood victims are safe from disease and illness.
> Best Regards Derek Johnston

Jim Harnum responds to Johnston again:

On 2014-10-19, at 11:16 AM, Harnum, Jim wrote:
Hello Mr. Johnston,

Thank you for your e-mail, I understand your concerns and assure you that the Region is taking this issue seriously and we have been very active in assisting residents and looking for short and long term solutions.

The Region has received over 6000 flood related inquiries since August 4th. All calls received by 311 (Access Halton) by phone or e-mail that require follow up are logged and tracked. Staff has responded to calls received by connecting directly with residents or by leaving a message with relevant information. We have encouraged all residents impacted by flooding to contact 311. This message was communicated to over 30,000 Burlington residents using the Community Emergency Notification System as well as by the Red Cross when they visited 10,979 homes at the request of the City and the Region following the flooding. There has also been communication through the media and social media.

I would also like to provide you the following additional information highlighting the Region’s response to the August 4th storm.

Over 3000 homes have been visited by Regional staff and almost $2 million in ex-gratia grants provided to assist residents. The Region also initiated a special program for residents in high priority areas where homes have been impacted by repeat flooding, covering 100% of the costs of basement flooding prevention measures. It is expected this program will cost an additional $1 million.

The regular Basement Flooding Prevention Subsidy program is available to all residents covering up to 50% of the cost to install basement flooding prevention measures. The demand for this program increased significantly after the August 4th storm. It is estimated that the Basement Flooding Prevention Subsidy program will cost the Region over $1 million.

Since the August 4th storm, the Region has also provided enhanced waste collection services in Burlington to assist residents clean up following the flooding. The cost of the enhanced services is expected to cost approximately $500,000.

Halton Region has supported the City’s request for Provincial assistance through the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program (ODRAP) and the fundraising efforts by the Burlington Community Foundation to provide financial assistance to residents impacted by the flood.

Halton Region has not previously experienced a storm with the intensity of the August 4th storm. It is clear that weather patterns throughout the world have changed. The City and the Region have initiated reviews of the storm water and sanitary sewer systems to identify actions that can be taken to reduce the risk of future flooding given the new realities of climate change. The review will consider changes in infrastructure, programs to disconnect private downspouts and updates to the Basement Flooding Prevention Subsidy program. Public Information Centres will be scheduled to update residents as the study proceeds.

Taylor with Sharman

Councillors Sharman and Taylor attended the community meeting but neither was asked to speak. Shaman’s ward was seriously damaged by the flooding. One would think the residents would want to hear from him. Taylor who has been around longer than any other council member knows more about how the Region works than anyone else on Council could have added some very useful information.

Residents with questions or concerns related to basement flooding are encouraged to call 311 or visit the Region’s website at Halton.ca/flood. In addition, the Region has recently published a “Guide to Flooding Prevention & Recovery” which is available online at Halton.ca/flood, or by calling 311 for a print copy.
Jim Harnum, CET, MBA, Commissioner, Public Works
—–Original Message—–


Regional Chair Gary Carr jumps in:

From: Carr, Gary
Sent: Saturday, October 18, 2014 5:30 PM
To: Derek Johnston; Harnum, Jim; MacCaskill, Jane
Subject: Re:

Thank you
Jim will give you a detailed update


On Oct 18, 2014, at 5:28 PM, Derek Johnston <derek@soundmaskcanada.com> wrote:

You quick response on a Saturday afternoon is noted and appreciated.
Thank you Derek Johnston



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