Port Medway senior feels 'like a prisoner in my own home' every time it rains

A couple who lives on a rural road in southwest Nova Scotia says the province's efforts to repair potholes has resulted in another, and much worse, problem that still hasn't been fixed.

Residents say flooding started after pothole repairs, but province says that's not the culprit

The Clattenburgs' front lawn flooded after Wednesday's heavy rain. (Janet Clattenburg)

A couple who lives on a rural road in southwest Nova Scotia says their property floods every time it rains and they're frustrated that the province still hasn't fixed the problem.

When the messy mix of rain and snow hit the province on Wednesday, like clockwork, a six-inch-deep lake began to form in Janet and Laurie Clattenburg's front yard on Fostertown Road in Port Medway. It stretches from the road to their driveway, trickling into their basement where a sump pump tries to keep it at bay.

Janet Clattenburg said she looked out her front window this week and thought, "Oh my God. And the neighbours even looked [out] their windows and said, 'Look at this!' It was ridiculous."

The Clattenburgs said a truck from the Transportation Department was on site Friday pumping water across the road. (Janet Clattenburg)

According to the Clattenburgs, the flooding became an issue after the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal did repair work on Fostertown Road in September.

They say crews put down a layer of asphalt that raised the road, causing water to pool directly in their yard. The water can stay for days.

They estimate their property has flooded about five times since last fall.

After CBC News contacted the department this week, a spokesperson said an operations supervisor was on site Thursday to assess the situation.

A truck from the department was at the Clattenburgs' property Friday evening pumping water across the road, but Janet Clattenburg worries about the next time it rains. She still wants the cause of the problem to be addressed.

Janet and Laurie Clattenburg have lived on the rural road in Port Medway for two decades and say they've never had flooding issues like this. (Submitted by Janet Clattenburg)

Laurie Clattenburg is 68 and has mobility issues. He said when the yard and driveway flood, and eventually freeze, he feels "like a prisoner in my own home."

"I try to walk and when I can't, I got to use a power cart and that's electric, and power carts aren't made to go through water," he said. "So when that floods over and gets to be a mess, I can't get out my driveway to go anywhere."

The couple doesn't know why it's taking so long to fix the problem, despite repeated calls and emails to the department.

Department says roadwork not the cause

But the department said the roadwork it did last year is not to blame. In an email, spokesperson Marla MacInnis said the department is still trying to determine the cause of the road's drainage issues.

"Although we did complete some asphalt repair work to the road during the summer months, that work would not have contributed to these issues," she wrote. "The repair timeline will depend on the solution and co-operative weather."

Janet Clattenburg isn't buying that response. 

Laurie Clattenburg says he has trouble walking down his driveway when the area is covered in water. (Janet Clattenburg)

"I'm afraid they're wrong," she said. "I'm totally amazed that they said that. I mean, I've got pictures of what it used to look like.

"I want it fixed. Fast. I'm tired of this — just tired of arguing with them."

Monica MacNeil, who has lived on the road for 26 years, said flooding has never really been a concern, until now.

"My property has puddles and the beginning of water streaming down my driveway, which would not really have happened before," she said.

It's also seeping into a property next to the Clattenburgs where a new home is being built.

Neighbouring properties affected

Greg Clattenburg, Janet's brother-in-law and the contractor who's building the house, said the project has been put on hold until the water recedes. 

"The equipment would just sink out of sight and then you'd have to use excavators and things to pull the equipment out," he said. "And you'd end up with big ruts and you'd have to repair all this and possibly damage the municipal road which you'd be responsible for."

While he said the area occasionally flooded before, it never used to be this bad. 

When the water freezes, the area turns into a skating rink. (Janet Clattenburg)

Kim Masland, the Progressive Conservative MLA for Queens-Shelburne, said she's made repeated calls to the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal on the Clattenburgs' behalf.

"I don't care what the [problem] is, but fix it and fix it today so that this couple is not dealing with trying to have to mitigate damage to their house all the time," she said.

Road conditions, especially in rural Nova Scotia, are at the top of the list of complaints her office receives, but she doesn't get many calls like this.  

"This is something that is actually impacting and damaging someone's personal property. This to me is a whole new level," she said.

The couple says their yard has flooded about five times since last fall. (Janet Clattenburg)

The department thanked members of the community for bringing the issue to their attention. "We thank them for their patience as we work to prioritize a number of projects. We hope to have a resolution to this issue soon," the department said. 

But the Clattenburgs aren't holding their breath. They've heard that before. 

Laurie Clattenburg suspects it's easy to put the project off when it's on the "very small road in the middle of nowhere."

"My little street is only about a mile and a half long, and they don't care," he said.

About the Author

Emma Smith

Reporter

Emma Smith is a journalist from B.C. who has covered rural issues and Indigenous communities. Before joining CBC Nova Scotia in 2017, she worked as the editor of a community newspaper. Have a story idea to send her way? Email emma.smith@cbc.ca

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