A group of Burlington residents is calling on the Halton Region to find out why a cluster of homes in the city’s southeast is a hot spot for sewer backups.

Dave Roberts, spokesman for the Burlington Sewer Back-Up Victim Coalition, said dozens of homeowners in his neighbourhood, himself included, suffered devastating floods during the historic downpour on Aug. 4.

But for some, it wasn’t their first sewage backup of the year. As a result, Roberts said, the region needs to do more to identify — and ultimately, fix — the problem.

“We shouldn’t be getting raw sewage pumped into our houses,” said Roberts, 37, a TV news assignment producer. “What we want is the region to look at the infrastructure that’s in place.”

Paul Sharman, councillor for Burlington’s Ward 5, is also calling on the region to take additional measures to help flooding victims.

He said he’s been “exceptionally” busy meeting with residents who experienced sewer backups on Aug. 4. For about 50 of those households, he said, it wasn’t their first major basement flood of the year.

'These are groups of people who are marginalized by the continual flooding of their homes over a number of years.' —Paul Sharman, councillor for Burlington's Ward 5

After a spate of sewer backups on May 13, “residents replaced furnaces, water heaters, their washers and dryers, only to find that they have to replace them again after August 4th,” he said.

Most of the affected houses were built before 1974 and have weeping tile that’s connected to the region’s sanitary sewers.

“These are groups of people who are marginalized by the continual flooding of their homes over a number of years.”

Adding to the frustration are the dealings many of the multiple-backup victims have had with their insurance companies in the wake of the Aug. 4 floods, Sharman said.

“In some instances, they have had their insurance cancelled. In many cases, they have had their insurance coverage substantially reduced.”

Region's response

Jim Harnum, commissioner of public works for the Halton Region, said the region is taking a number of steps to help identify why these homes are getting flooded.

At the behest of Burlington’s city council, the region is accelerating a study that will examine the flow of water through the region’s sewer systems.

Ordered after the flooding in May, the third-party study was set to be conducted over the next year and delivered to the region next July.

But Harnum said the region has agreed to start tests in Halton’s most backup-prone neighbourhoods as soon as possible and plans to have an initial report ready for December.

He said he expects the testing to cost the region between $200,000 and $300,000.

“It’s good customer service and we need to find out what’s happening in these neighbourhoods.”

The results of the study will inform what changes, if any, the region will need to make to its sanitary sewer system.

In the short term, he said, the region has agreed to pay to disconnect the weeping tile and install backwater valves at 80 to 100 homes that have suffered more than one sewage backup.

He said as many as 23,000 properties across Halton have downspouts that are linked into the sanitary sewer system via weeping tile.

In the long-term, he said, those households will need to be upgraded.

“That’s the ultimate solution.”