Dundas business owners suffer tens of thousands in flood damage, blame city

Business and property owners in Dundas are angry about the damage to their properties by flood on Thursday night. It's happened before, but not this bad. They say better management from the city could have avoided what happened.

Business and property owners in Dundas say flood damage to their properties were "preventable"

Cleanup after floods in Dundas was underway Friday. This shows the scale of debris that blocked a culvert and caused a stream to overflow and flood a plaza and nearby streets. (Dave Beatty/CBC)

Business and property owners in Dundas are angry about the destruction to their properties by flood on Thursday night, and they say better management from the city could have avoided the losses they're now facing.

A torrential downpour — 72.4 mm by the Royal Botanical Gardens' count, which is roughly a month's worth of rain — battered Dundas Thursday, and caused flooding on a number of Dundas streets. It's the most rain that's ever fallen in Hamilton in a single day since 1866, which is as far back as the records go.

The results of the flood are catastrophic for some of the residents, particularly in the area around the intersection of King Street and York Road, where the creek running by the plaza with the Tim Hortons has flooded before, but never like this, they say.

"It's something that could have been prevented, and people should be asking why," said Russ Woodward, owner of Crodon Kitchen and Bath Centre, which is behind the Tim Hortons in that plaza. Woodward says he has suffered around $100,000 in damages, since the flood waters burst through his basement windows and he is worried about the future of his business.

"I arrived here and found that my entire basement, seven feet high, was completely full of water."

Right now the insurance people are here, and they're about to turn off my power. I won't be able to run my business.- Russ Woodward

He said the flood waters flipped over a work table that weighs 400 lbs. Afterward, they found a fish and a frog amongst the wreckage of their equipment, stock, and records.

After surveying the damage in his own building, Woodward said he went outside and saw logs floating around the neighbouring Tim Hortons.

"And we saw city workers standing there looking at each other like, 'What do we do?'"

"Right now the insurance people are here, and they're about to turn off my power. I won't be able to run my business," Woodward said.

Michael Politewicz of Got the Shot Photography ventured into Crodon's basement to capture the following video footage of the flood damage.

Credit Michael Politewicz of Got the Shot Photography


4 years ago
Surveying the flood damage in the basement of Crodon Kitchen and Bath Centre in Dundas. 3:26

Rhonda Wells, who runs Ya'd Never Know Bakery across the road, was still drying the floors on Friday morning. She said she couldn't estimate how much the damage will cost.

"We have no insurance coverage, because flood insurance is a $50,000 deductible for everybody, so this is out of  our pocket. We've got to replace the floor."

"But we're still open for business," she added.

The culvert culprit

The culprit is the Sydenham Creek, which runs through Dundas from the Northwest at Sydenham Falls to the marsh around Cootes Drive in the Southeast. It crosses in front of the plaza at the corner of King Street and York Road before going underground. It is a culvert along that stream that got blocked.

Woodward thinks a metal grille over the drain is a big part of the reason for the flooding, since debris from upstream tends to accumulate there and block the flow of water.

"It's completely preventable. They've got a metal grille at the end of that creek bed there that fills up. It's not the first time it's happened."

Others residents expressed the same concern. They don't understand why the city won't be proactive and address the potential problem when they have had floods before.

"The reality is, we're an older city with older infrastructure, and we're doing our best." - Dan McKinnon

"I've never seen it this bad in 45 years," said John Hejno, who has owned  the plaza all that time. 

Henjo told the CBC he's contacted the city on a few occasions over the years with his concerns about the culvert, but was told the city was in compliance with protocols and not liable for flood damage.

Gyu Woo, who owns the building where Wells' bakery is, said, "hopefully they will solve the problem with the systems. That's the main issue. Something has to be done."

"I am very sympathetic with these folks," said Dan McKinnon, the general manager of Public Works. "I had water coming in my house yesterday too, I know what it's like."

He explained that the way the city prepares for this is to inspect historically problem-areas beforehand, and he said this location was inspected ahead of the rain yesterday. During these inspections, workers make sure these inlets aren't already obstructed.

"The challenge that residents may not appreciate," McKinnon said, "is that it's the rain event itself that picks up the debris."

"With the amount of debris that was coming downstream, there's no way we could stay ahead of it."

The metal grille is there to make sure the culvert doesn't get plugged with a normal flow of debris, but McKinnon said that when the rainfall and debris accumulation are so far in excess of what the infrastructure is built to handle, there's nothing the city can do about it.

"The reality is, we're an older city with older infrastructure, and we're doing our best," said McKinnon.

Arlene VanderBeek, Ward 13 city councillor, could not be reached on Friday. However, her email address auto-replied Thursday with an away message saying she'll be in meetings for the rest of the week. 

dave.beatty@cbc.ca | @dbeatty