Welsford bypass being blamed for flooding, damage to homes

Some homeowners who live near the Welsford bypass, between Saint John and Fredericton, say it's causing constant and destructive flooding, and that the provincial government should be doing more to help.

Michael Smith and Coleen Thompson say they feel 'abandoned' by the provincial government

Michael Smith and Coleen Thompson want the provincial government to buy their home on Welsford Station Road due to repeated flooding and well contamination, which they blame on construction of the bypass. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Some homeowners who live near the Welsford bypass, between Saint John and Fredericton, say it's causing constant and destructive flooding, and that the provincial government should be doing more to help.

Michael Smith and his wife, Coleen Thompson, say their home on Welsford Station Road has flooded once a year, every year since 2010.

Michael Smith, a military veteran, says he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and problems with his home has have only made things worse. (CBC)
"Six times. And it's progressively gotten worse and worse and worse," said Smith.

In addition to the damage to the home, which includes a crack in the foundation, a bowed outer wall, and a two-foot washout underneath their garage, their well has also been contaminated.

"This last time, I lost a vehicle. I almost drowned," said Smith, referring to the big rain storm last October.

"I fell in the water and couldn't get up because it took the legs out from underneath me. My neighbour's swing set ended up on top of our car."

Smith says they had their home inspected in late 2006, before they moved in, and it was fine. He says the problems only started a few years later, when blasting and blocking off of waterways related to the bypass construction started.

Michael Smith says the October 2015 flooding knocked him off his feet and left the neighbour's swing set on top of his car. (Submitted)
The couple is not alone. In August of 2013, Stephanie Jordan told CBC News drainage problems were being made worse by construction on the Highway 7 bypass.

Jordan said she was told by the provincial government there was no money to repair the damage.

Smith and Thompson say they contacted a lawyer, but can't afford to launch a lawsuit. They want the government to buy their property, which they contend is now worthless.

No flood claims filed

The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure has been "working with Welsford area residents over the past year to deal with issues related to construction," spokeswoman Sarah Bustard said in an emailed statement to CBC News on Wednesday.

But none of the claims have been related to flooding, she said.

"The claims received from residents are related to well water issues as a direct result of blasting and construction such as taste, turbidity and sediment), structural damage, and claims that wells have run dry," said Bustard.

"Five residents currently receive bottled water from the department, in addition to regular well water testing."

The Welsford bypass, one of the biggest construction projects in New Brunswick history, opened in late 2013. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)
Thompson, however, says she had been communicating with a department employee, up until March 2011, when he stopped responding to her calls and emails.

She says she also contacted the Department of Environment, the ombudsman and their MLA.

"Everywhere I have turned I have been stonewalled. I have pages of documentation on water tests, on the degradation of the property, on everything, and nobody pays attention to it," said Thompson.

"There is literally very few government agencies that I have not contacted."

They don't want to hear the story, they don't want to have to take responsibility, but yet they keep buying me bottled water.- Coleen Thompson, homeowner

She feels "abandoned" by the government. "No one cares at all. They don't want to hear the story, they don't want to have to take responsibility, but yet they keep buying me bottled water."

Smith, a 23-year military veteran, says the situation is taking a toll on his health.

"I've got PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and my nerves are shot and I just start panicking when we start hearing rain drops come because I don't know if we're going to get flooded again, or it's just a mild rain," he said.

"I've worked my whole life to be a hard-working person and all I wanted to do was have my slice of heaven and retire quietly and peacefully. I can`t even do that now."


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