Backed Up And Fed Up

Will a new development destroy cellars?

by Vanda Schmöckel

Wanda Silzer

Wanda Silzer wasn’t feeling optimistic following the Aug. 26 City Council meeting. Council had just given final approval to a 90-unit residential development in her west Cathedral neighbourhood, despite the fact that it will be sitting on a soon-to-be former flood plain, and with the knowledge that there are longstanding drainage issues in the surrounding area.

Silzer and her neighbours have been dealing with waste and storm sewer back-up in their basements for years.

“There’s going to be lots of people’s poo in our basement,” Silzer said. “It’s just never going to end.”

If Silzer sounds frustrated, she has very good reason. For the past few years, she says she’s seen an escalation of the kind of trouble this area has experienced for more than two decades — namely sewer and storm water backing up into basements around the 2200 block of Edward and Pasqua Streets. Silzer says she can no longer get insurance on her basement, and has had to have it reconstructed twice due to sewer back-ups, making claims in 2010 and 2011.

“I’ve redone all the sewer to the city — in my house, outside my house,” she says, “and I still flooded twice.”

Some residents have gone so far as to install industrial valves to cut off the flow of water backing up from the street. Marlo Gebhardt, another area resident, describes rushing home during rain storms to turn off back valves, and not being able to run water, do laundry, or flush her toilet for hours on end.

“And also, there’s a very strong smell,” Gebhardt says.

“I’ve had to send everyone out of my house, even pets,” Silzer adds. “Because it burns your eyes, the sewer gas is so strong.”

The City has long been aware of the situation. It’s been an issue since at least 1988 when it committed to addressing the problem in the Cathedral Area Neighbourhood Plan. Currently, the city is commissioning a report on the local drainage and sewage situation from the department of public works. The report is expected to be filed by the end of this year, and presented in February before the city devises a strategy for fixing the existing drainage issues around the area.

In the meantime, the new 90-unit townhouse development slated to go up at 2220 Edward St. is causing concerns for some neighbouring residents around how the new development’s drainage and sewer water might make their situation worse.

“They’ve basically allowed the development to go ahead,” Silzer said. “They’ll fix our sewer — we don’t know how well, or when — but this development’s ground level is going to be 10 feet higher than our ground level. No one has stated how gravity and hydraulic pressure is going to affect us with ground water or sewer water. And it’s on a flood plain. Plain and simple, it just shouldn’t be there.”

The city is expected to rezone the area for residential use in the coming weeks.

“The concerned residents who think the new development will somehow exacerbate or worsen their problems — the engineers’ work that was done shows absolutely conclusively that those are separate issues,” says Mayor Michael Fougere.

Given the longstanding problems, though, some local residents question whether it might not makes sense to address the existing issues before allowing any future development in the area.

“Well, that’s not the view of council,” Fougere says. “The problems that are affecting the existing neighbourhood, they’re serious, and we need to fix them, [but they] are not going to be impacted by the new development. So we can do them in tandem. It is not reasonable to delay development when it has no impact on the water or sewage in the area.”

So what’s taken so long to address the area’s complaints?

“I can’t answer that with total clarity other than to say that it probably should have been done,” Fougere said. “The longer you go, the more serious it is, but I would say that the fact that we’re doing it now shows that council is serious [about solving] the problem.”

But it begs the question, if 2220 Edward St will be built on what has heretofore always been a flood plain, and a good portion of that flood plain is taken away to make space for a residential development, where will all that water go?

According to Geoff Brown, manager of the infrastructure branch for the City of Regina, much of the job of keeping errant storm and waste water away from the existing neighbourhood will be in the hands of the developer itself. He says the developer has proposed a number of measures to avoid affecting the surrounding area, such as including a lift station, and offline storage of waste and storm runoff on site.

Brown says this would essentially hold the material until there is, ostensibly, capacity available downstream on the main sewage trunk.

“The [2220 Edward St] sewer ultimately does discharge to the trunk, however it’s going to bypass all the existing residences there,” Brown says.

As for storm water, Brown says it will be directed away from the development under Lewvan Drive, into the west Lewvan ditch, and eventually empty into Wascana Creek.

However things progress, the endless drainage issues — and the long wait to finally have them addressed by the city — have left a very bad taste in the mouths of local residents. And their patience is wearing thin.

“We have all the grounds for a class action lawsuit,” Silzer says. “If this build goes ahead and they don’t fix anything and we have issues, it’s definitely going to be a legal issue for the city.”

2013-09-05

48 thoughts on “Backed Up And Fed Up”

  1. I feel horrible for these residents!!! I have been following this issue for a while now, and it just disgusts me at how the City of Regina continues to cater to developers, and to hell with the residents! Who cares if you’ve got poo in your basement for DECADES! Who cares if you can’t get insurance because the CITY can’t get their poo together! Who cares about your home value declining because of said problems!

    The City of Regina, and specifically City Council, is about as arrogant and crooked as they come, and they continue to honestly boggle my mind with every misstep they take. I don’t CARE what your chosen engineer says, LISTEN TO THESE RESIDENTS!!! The ones that PAY YOUR SALARY!!! When will City Council get it through their heads that these great folks should be given priority over corporations? I’ve been told directly by the Regina Chamber of Commerce CEO, Mr. John Hopkins, that “do you realize how much tax dollars we represent?” (referring to the corporate community). My response to that is – I could give two shits how much your corporate buddies contribute in taxes. The last I checked, we live in a DEMOCRACY, and that means I don’t care if you pay $1 in taxes, or $1,000,000 in taxes, you are supposed to be afforded the same treatment.

    It’s situations like this that honestly make me want to get sick. These are people’s LIVES that City Council is disrupting. Some for a couple decades by the sounds of it. And it’s not just a “oh my curb is not level” complaint, it’s a “there’s other people’s SHIT in my basement” – not only devaluing their properties, but potentially harming their health. Perhaps punishment for City Council could be to make them live in these houses for a month when the worst happens. Maybe THEN they will start to listen?

    I don’t know if they read these comments, but if they do, or someone here knows how to get in contact with them, please tell them to send me an email so I can possibly see if there’s anything the Saskatchewan Taxpayers Advocacy Group can do on this. Purely outrageous. Go to my website and my contact info is there.

  2. Stated it perfectly Chad! There are even more issues with this development that are not in article like using our small Pasqua street alley as access, traffic concerns(estimated at 720 trips per day), no storm drain in our alley, and sun blocking all the existing residents with hideous, not suited to area build. And last but not least the apparent ‘conflict of interest’ within city council since the land is owned by one of the owners of Century 21 Dome/ Century West Developments that employs 2 of the Councillors with a conditional sale deal to another employee of Century 21 Dome. And no they did not excuse themselves for the vote! Quite the opposite occurred.
    August 26 council meeting-they granted 1 year tax exemption and following year to apply for grant money to Regina Golf Course essentially granting them 90,000 per year to fix golf course due to flooding as they are in same flood plain as us. Maybe we should all ask for this too since they have not paid us a dime for all the damage and flooding we have incurred to our homes.
    Kinda makes you scratch your head and say ‘huh’!

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