City offering financial help to flood-prone homeowners

Workers with VanBree Construction rip up Devine Street as part of a sewer separation project seen in this 2017 file photo. Glenn Ogilvie

Troy Shantz

A Sarnia resident who has endured repeat basement floods is commending new grants City Hall is offering impacted homeowners.

Darcy Colborne and others in the Coronation Park area have invested heavily in their homes to try and stop basement floods they blame on the city’s antiquated sewer system.

“It seems like they listened to the residents’ concerns,” said Colborne. “And in terms of bureaucracy, it’s a lightning-fast turnaround.”

The new program reimburses homeowners 75% on the cost of approved backwater valves, to a maximum $1,000. It also covers 90% of eligible costs to disconnect foundation drains and install sump pumps, to a maximum $4,000.

A massive engineering project to separate all of Sarnia’s storm and sanitary sewers has not reached many older neighbourhoods. During heavy rains, combined sewers can overflow and back up, causing rainwater and sewage to surge up through floor drains and into home basements.

Colborne had already filed one insurance claim in 2019 when a rainstorm the following August destroyed her newly installed backflow valve, and water once again filled the basement of her Minto Street home.

Within hours, streets in the area were dotted with vans from restoration companies assessing damage done to furnishings and personal possessions.

Colborne, a construction estimator by trade, said she understands Sarnia lacks the money to separate all its sewers immediately.

“This seems like a good compromise,” she said. “We can at least protect the houses until … we get around to redoing the (entire) sewer system.”

Staff estimates the program will cost $200,000 the first year and $50,000 in subsequent years.

Sarnia has separated about half its old combined sanitary and storm sewers.

Twenty kilometres have been completed over the past 15 years, leaving about 19 kilometres left to do, mostly under streets bounded by Exmouth, East and Campbell streets.

The job could take another 20 years to complete, depending on funding.