Landslide forces evacuation of homes in Orléans

Heavy rains and a generally wet spring are being blamed for a landslide along a creek in Orléans, which has forced the evacuation of three houses for what could be a month or more.

Crews working to stabilize slopes of ravine behind Turnberry Road

Three houses on Turnberry Road, which runs along Bilberry Creek in Orléans, have been evacuated as workers try to stabilize the ravine after a landslide. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Heavy rains and a generally wet spring are being blamed for a landslide along Bilberry Creek in Orléans, which has forced the evacuation of three houses for what could be a month or more.

The City of Ottawa, which owns and oversees the Bilberry Creek greenspace, said Thursday it has ordered the occupants of three houses on Turnberry Road to vacate their homes while urgent work is undertaken to stabilize and repair slopes along the creek.

The erosion and landslides started in mid-April and worsened by the end of the month as more rain soaked the clay soil.

Here's a view from the backyard of one of the three shuttered houses. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

By Thursday, parts of Bilberry Creek were unrecognizable after being covered in earth and large trees that toppled down from the slopes.

While no homes in the neighbourhood have been damaged, the landslides happened just metres from the backyard property lines of three homes.

Crews were busy Wednesday cutting trees in the greenspace in an effort to limit any further landslides. 

Homes not in immediate danger

Fencing has been installed around the perimeter of the two-storey detached homes, and security guard ensured no one ventured onto the properties.

Alain Gonthier, the city's director of infrastructure, said the houses themselves are not in any immediate danger, given the safe distance between the ravine and the foundations.

A view of the other side of the ravine. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

"Until we can effect the repairs, we felt that it was prudent to have them vacate the properties until the work is completed, and then they will be able to go back into their homes," said Gonthier.

It's not clear when the families will be allowed to move back in.

"We're still trying to access the most appropriate solution," said Gonthier. "At this point we're talking about, probably, at least a month. It could be a bit more depending on the extent of the repairs that are going to be required."

The Red Cross is assisting the displaced families, and according to neighbours all three families have been able to find temporary housing.

Geotechnical firm monitoring

A geotechnical firm continues to monitor the situation and so far there's nothing to indicate more houses need to be evacuated, Gonthier added.

"At this point, I don't think that other properties should be concerned. If there are concerns that continue to develop, we will certainly continue to keep the community engaged."

Neighbour Laval Grimard says he's crossing his fingers for the homeowners. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Neighbour Laval Grimard has lived on Turnberry since 1989, when he purchased a new house that also backs onto the ravine. He said Thursday this is the first time soil erosion has caused concern.

"Currently I'm crossing my fingers, and mostly for my neighbours, hoping they'll be all right," said Grimard.

Grimard described the wooded area and network of trails behind his home as a little paradise offering some forest experience in the city.

Resident Suzanne Roy says she hopes the landscape can be saved. (Giacomo Panico)

"We hope the city will be able to salvage as much as they can, and most of all, for the long term, is that our houses won't be at risk," said Grimard.

Turnberry homeowner Suzanne Roy has been walking the trails along Bilberry Creek for the past 25 years.

"It was the nicest ravine ever. I didn't have to go to Gatineau Park," said Roy. "I used to do my Tai Chi over there, there's nice bridges ... I don't know what I'm going to do. They better bring it back."