Residents in Kitchener's Laurentian Hills area are battling a termite colony that has taken up residence in their back yards and are asking for the city's help to battle the bugs.
The termites are chewing apart trees, sheds, fences and even people's homes.
"It's something that will eventually spread to the rest of the city if it isn't addressed in the near future," said Stephen Dewar, whose house is affected by termites.
On Monday, he asked city councillors to help him and his neighbours fight the invasion.
"Right now it's contained to a city block, so it hasn't crossed the road yet. All the houses that are affected either abut each other or back on to each other," said Dewar.
The infestation in Laurentian Hills is confined to one block of 23 homes, essentially a rectangular island of homes on Briargate Drive and Greenock Drive. In that block, 20 homes were infected and seven of those homes have already been treated for termites.
Dewar said he discovered the infestation in the spring, after the city inspector found termite evidence on his property. At the time, he learned that some of his neighbours had known about termites in the area for as long as three years.
City considers financial assistance
Dewar said there is a bylaw that requires him to have his property treated by a professional exterminator within 30 days or he will face a fine from the city.
"They basically told us it's the homeowner's responsibility," he said.
But Dewar said the exterminators he approached told him they could only use chemicals that work as repellents to try to keep the termites out of his house. The exterminators wouldn't be able to kill the colony, because the chemicals that can be legally used in Ontario won't kill the insects.
"So the problem isn't going to go away, and in fact it's likely to spread to the rest of the city," said Dewar.
Dewar said it would cost between $2,000 to $5,000 to treat the outside of his property, and from $5,000 to $8,000 – or more – to treat the inside of his property. The treatment is only good for one year, he said.
Dewar has asked city staff to look into new ways to get rid of the termite colony, not to enforce the bylaw and to offer financial help to people in the Laurentian Hills who are dealing with the termites.
Council on Monday decided to continue enforcing the bylaw, but will consider offering financial assistance to the homeowners.
"We have to look holistically, though, not just at this issue but at rats and the infestation of emerald ash borer, other potential infestations as well," said Coun. Dan Glenn-Graham.
"We can’t afford to support this kind of long-term funding,” he told council.
"Because if we were to do it for some, we have to be willing to do it for all."