I saw a listing recently for a home in Elmvale Acres that referred to the basement having flooded in the heavy rains on October 30th last year. Apparently the storm had overwhelmed the sanitary back up valve that was supposed to stop storm sewer water from entering a house.
The surface flooding that took place in that area was unbelievable – one homeowner, Kevin Gray, told the Ottawa Citizen that several feet of water came in right through his front door. (Picture: credit Ottawa Citizen/Kevin Gray).
Not surprisingly, homeowners wanted answers.
The fact that the homeowner in the listing I mentioned had a backwater valve at all (even though it didn’t work) got me thinking. We normally only see these installed where there is a history of flooding in the area, but that particular storm had been touted as a once in a century occurrence. So I did a little digging.
Elmvale Acres was developed in the 1950s by Robert Campeau, and since it was a new subdivision, his company was responsible for paying for infrastructure. As the Ottawa Journal reported in 1955, city taxes were gong to be lower in that area because the builder was paying for sewer and water mains upfront.
Taxes on the houses will be comparatively low in view of the fact that the Installation of sewer and water mains throughout the project are paid in advance by the construction company and this is Included in the selling price. When completed, this subdivision will contain at least 1,700 houses.
Within two years of construction, there were already problems. On June 24, 1957, after a storm, The Ottawa Citizen reported there had been surface flooding in Elmvale Acres and a “steady stream” of calls to City Hall.
I couldn’t find out what the city did then to deal with the problem, then, but if they did anything at all, it didn’t work for long. I found a reference in the Ottawa Journal to the Urbandale-Elmvale Acres area as being “another major basement flooding trouble spot” in 1973.
According to this Ottawa Citizen news report, which quotes City Councillor Peter Hume, in 1999, the city installed a storage holding tank in Alta Vista to hold sewer water to prevent back-ups. Flood prevention measures were to be undertaken the following year. If that’s the case, once again, they didn’t work: only four years later, the area flooded again.
A City of Ottawa report dated November, 2005 refers to a history of basement flooding in Alta Vista, as follows:
There are 6 neighbourhoods in this Ward that experienced basement flooding on September 9, 2004, including Alta Vista (Chalmers), Alta Vista (Blossom/Utah), Faircrest Heights, Elmvale Acres/Urbandale Acres, Riverview Park (Drake) and Ridgemont. Approximately 140 homes reported basement flooding in these neighbourhoods on September 9, 2004.
What is the history of basement flooding in these areas?
These neighbourhoods have experienced repeated flooding in 1986, 1988 and 1996.
The sewers in these neighbourhoods are partially separated and are aging. The sanitary sewer system operates adequately during dry weather conditions, but during extreme wet weather conditions the additional flow contribution from connected foundation drains, flat roofs and depressed driveways contribute significant quantities of stormwater that can result in basement flooding. The groundwater level in these neighbourhoods is very high increasing the problems associated with stormwater inflow into the sanitary sewer system.
So, this problem has been around for a very long time – well over sixty years. From just my cursory search, we have reports of homes in the Elmvale area flooding in 1957, 1973, 1986, 1988, 1996, 2004, and 2017. That’s disturbing. It certainly is something I want my clients to know about if they are thinking of buying in that area.
Kevin Kit, the president of the Elmvale Acres Community Association, was reported as saying after last year’s flooding saying that this hasn’t been the first time that residents in the neighbourhood have been flooded, and that the city needs to start really looking into the current sewer systems. No kidding. Surely it’s time for a permanent solution.