By Belle Hatfield
Repeated incidents of flooding in homes and businesses led a delegation to Yarmouth Town Council’s last committee of the whole meeting to appeal for help.
Councillors and residents crowd around as the town's engineer, David Ernst, explains a map documenting the town's sewage system. BELLE HATFIELD PHOTO
Argyle Street resident Dale Smith said he’s lived on the street for over 50 years.
He questioned whether recent developments – the high school on Forest Street and residential apartments on Haley Road – are contributing to the flooding now being experienced on Argyle Street.
“It seems like the sewer system is being overwhelmed by surface water,” he said.
Smith described storm sewage spouting three feet high out of the manholes during the recent heavy rains.
He questioned whether a nine-inch line was adequate to service the 42 homes in the Argyle Street area. There were also concerns expressed about the state of the Broad Brook watercourse, which flows through town and exits at Kelly’s Cove.
Councillor Dan MacIsaac described Jarvis Street, which runs between the east end of South East Street and Argyle Street, a couple of years ago during a rainstorm.
“The water was just pouring off the hill, just like a waterfall. Jarvis Street was completely flooded … I didn’t know if I was going to have to swim through it. It was deep. I had never seen that before,” he said.
MacIsaac grew up on Argyle Street. He asked the town’s engineer what’s contributing to the problems on Argyle.
“Somebody had dug a ditch along the stone wall … all the way up the hill,” engineer David Ernst confirmed, adding that the ditch is tending to “concentrate the water.” In addition, topsoil had been removed from a large section of land on the upper part of the hill.
“That speeds up the rate of run-off,” he said. “It concentrates run-off there as well.”
Remedial efforts by the town to divert water from Jarvis Street to Broad Brook helped initially, but now the problem appears worse than ever, said MacIsaac.
“It appears that the piping that we have there now … I don’t think it is adequate, or there has to be water diverted,” said MacIsaac. “Is there something we can do to divert some of that water to take the pressure off Argyle Street, until we find the financing to fix this?”
Ernst pointed out that the most recent rainstorms have been unusual.
“That was a heavy, heavy rain,” said the engineer.
Yarmouth experienced torrential rains on Friday, Sept. 13, when, according to Environment Canada, 52 mm fell in a relatively short period. The rain overwhelmed sewer systems throughout Yarmouth. On Saturday, June 29, there was another heavy rainfall event, when 32 mm fell. The rain came during such a short period that it again caused flood damage – actually washing out parts of the Broad Brook trail, which had just been opened two days before.
It is not the only area of town being hit with flooding. Debbie Roberts was in the audience. She and her husband Brian operate a business on Pleasant Street near the corner of Cliff. After 30 years of intermittent flooding, she hoped the town would address the issues affecting their business too. Also in the audience were residents and business operators on Albert Street, who complained that the recent curbing in front of St. Ambrose Cathedral seems to have exacerbating flooding issues.
Residents did not walk away with assurances of a quick fix.
“There’s not, off the top of my head, a solution that I can suggest right at the moment,” said Ernst.
“I have a list of projects and we can only do so much,” he said, adding, “A pipe system is not designed for a one in one hundred year storm.”
After the presentations, council unanimously passed a motion to refer the matter to the town’s engineer for immediate review.