Ward 5 candidate calls for immediate action to prevent future floods

council 100x100By Pepper Parr

September 2, 2014



He`s running for office and tackling a major problem in ward 5 – and he`s letting people know there are solutions to the problem – but the city has to take action and do so now – to solve a serious problem.

Should James Smith take the Ward 5 seat from incumbent Paul Sharman – we now know what his first act is going to be at the first Development and Infrastructure Standing Committee meeting.

In prepared remarks Candidate for Burlington’s Ward 5 in the October 27th Municipal Election, James Smith, addressed the need for immediate solutions required for Burlington’s neighborhood’s that have ongoing flooding and sewage back-up issues.

Basement flood ree pipe

Ward 5 candidate James Smith believes floods like this can be prevented.

Smith asks and answers two questions: “How do we fix this problem?” and “How do we pay for it”?

For the first time during this devastating flood, someone has said publicly what could be done and how it would be paid for. The citizens of this city have not heard a word from city hall nor the Regional offices as to what could be done.

Smith proposes a ten point plan that puts the city to work immediately for those affected by the August 4th and previous floods. “The city”, he says “has allowed this problem to go unresolved for far too long. We need action now!”

Smith maintains part of the issue is administrative. “Some of the answers were made known to council as far back as 2007 in a report: Understanding Storm-water and Residential Flooding & Proposed Actions & Strategie s, July 2007– which has yet to be fully acted upon.”

Letting reports sit and collect dust has to end, said Smith. “As a City Council we either act, or we specifically and publicly choose to reject staff recommendations. Having problems languish is no solution. Burlington needs a protocol for not letting staff reports and recommendations sit and gather dust.”

Smith points out that in the July 2007 report there were two reasons, for basement flooding due to sewage backup, identified: downspouts and weeping tile connection to sanitary sewer lines. “These two problems should be our first priority.”

Smith’s ten points address the problem. “This council and the current Ward 5 Councillor have allowed this to be neglected.” Smith doesn’t mention the fact that the current Mayor represented ward 5 prior to 2006.

Smith addresses how we pay for these actions. “Many people have asked, as I’m presenting these ideas: How do we pay for them? Money now allocated in development accounts must be re-allocated to solve this problem and, he adds money budgeted for the roads should be spent on this urgent need.”


James Smith, on the left, led the Friends of Freeman Station in saving the building from a scrap heap. He sits with the Freeman five, the people that are leading the restoration of the building on Fairview next to the fire station

Smith also points out “the city presently has more than twenty million dollars budgeted for rebuilding North Service Road and the Walkers Line intersection: this money was allocated to allow for IKEA to move to the area; that move isn’t going to take place -, spend this money now helping those affected by the flood.

The following is Smith’s ten-point action plan for the city and the Region of Halton to fix the flooding problem in Burlington neighborhoods:

Smith sets out immediate plans and longer term plans.  His immediate actions are:
1: The Region of Halton and the City of Burlington must implement a program, fully paid for by the Region of Halton and the city of Burlington to disconnect foundation drains (weeping tiles) from the Sanitary Sewer System in the areas most frequently experiencing the problem of sewer backup.

2: The city has to make downspout disconnection mandatory. We know the areas worst affected, get the word out, and inspect property for non-compliance. Like foundation drain connections the Region of Halton and the City of Burlington have to pay for this program.

3: Add or enlarge Storm-water capacity and catch-basins where required and retrofit sanitary sewer access points to prevent storm water from entering the Sanitary sewer system and add sewer venting where required.

4: Re-write storm water management rules; Burlington has ignored provincial norms for decades. Specifically we need to bring top of bank and setback rules to provincial standards (or exceed them), reverse the city’s preference for burying creeks and creek channelization, forbid the construction of box culvert crossings of creeks, improve debris clearing of creeks, and forbid development upon, and the destruction of swales.

5: Enact a private property tree by-law. Trees can help retain storm water, and can prevent soil erosion reducing creek flow rates and reduce the harmful effects of storms. (As part of my volunteer activity, over the years, as a member of the Conserver Society, we lobbied against a number of plans by the City of Burlington that would have allowed the destruction of wood lots, channelizing of creeks and encroachment on setbacks of watercourses. If our group had not been successful in preventing the destruction of the Sheldon Creek Wood Lot, the damage from flooding on August 4th would have been much greater in my opinion). The City and the Region needs to also set a goal of increasing the area of our Tree canopy.

Improper stormwater connections

Smith and other candidates,notably Ward 4 incumbent Jack Dennison, point to the wrong way to handle storm water.

Longer term solutions:
1: Evaluate and improve Burlington’s emergency response systems and protocols. The events of August 4th are at least the second time this year the city was not up to the job of emergency management. We need a best practice solution to responding to crisis, and communicating with our citizens during a crisis.

2: Set a goal to reduce the area of impermeable surface in the city and the Region. Develop planning regulations that reduce the percentage of hard surfaces in all building permit applications, require greater on-site storm water retention and promote permeable paving systems and implement their use at all City and Regional facilities.

Proper stormwater connections

Smith wants the city and the regional governments to pay for disconnecting downspouts and installing backwater valves and sump pumps in some of the city’s dwellings.

3: Better fund the Regional Conservation Authority and evaluate the uploading of Storm- water management to the Region of Halton

4: Have the Region of Halton Purchase and develop a 3D modeling platform in co- operation with the Colleges and Universities in the Region. This should be an open sourced platform and either housed in a regional theatre, or, better yet, as a mobile presentation kit that can be taken to public meetings. This system should allow for producing Digital Terrain Modeling of the Region, as well as populating this platform with Utilities, Geological, Geomorphological, Roads and Building Intelligent Modelling as well as important flora.

This system could be used in the Region as a visualization tool to study a variety of topics from proposed building projects to storm water management. Tools like this are now being used by some jurisdictions in the UK and Europe. A tool like this would greatly aid in finding solutions to flooding and sewer backup. As building permits are issued, more refined topographical information needs to be included in permits to limit negative storm water impact to neighbouring properties.

5: Evaluate less costly alternatives to traditional concrete sewer pipes (ie PVC), thereby reducing costs and freeing up capital for many of the ideas outlined here

The August 4th rains are a wake-up call on climate change, said Smith. The city, he said needs to take climate change more seriously and do a better job planning for extreme weather events, especially when it comes to rezoning and storm-water management.”


Everyone wears a smile at the signing of an agreement between the city and the Friends of Freeman Station – getting to this point was not made easy by a majority of city council. James Smith is second from the left.

Smith understands there may be legislative difficulties in implementing new spending priorities in an election cycle. “I’m urging Burlington City Council to adopt my five short term actions in principle and petition the Minister of Municipal Affairs to give his approval for this spending so we can get a start before the construction season comes to an end.”

Smith adds one more comment, a plea actually for more donations to the Flood Relief. “Many people’s lives have been turned upside down. As a community we need to do the right thing and dig deep to help our neighbours. Go online to help with Burlington Flood Relief by visiting: https://www.uwaybh.ca/urgent-burlington- flood-relief/”

Smith was the chair of the Friends of Freeman Station that worked tirelessly to save the old railway station that is now being restored after being moved to a new foundation beside the Main fire hall on Fairview.



Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

1 comment to Ward 5 candidate calls for immediate action to prevent future floods; puts forward a ten point plan and how it can be paid for as well.

  • penny Hersh

    I was wondering when someone would step up and ask for answers. I emailed Marianne Meed-Ward a week ago to ask if Burlington’s crumbling infrastructure or lack of cleaning out drains and sewers could have contributed to the flooding problem that many Burlington residents now have to deal with. She answered saying that this was definitely something that would be looked into.

    Interesting that we have money for a Pier and a Performing Art Centre but the issues that need to be taken care aren’t. Guess there is no cache to fix infrastructure. Not a really good photo-op looking at the sewers.

    I hope the citizens of Burlington who were affected by this do what they have to do to get help from the City and more than the politicians asking for donations from residents to be able to match government funding.