City of Ottawa opening info centres for residents affected by flood

The City of Ottawa is setting up information centres in Cumberland, Britannia, Woodlawn, and Fitzroy Harbour to help affected residents with flood recovery.

Staff on hand to help residents assess damage, access resources

Sandbags block Boise Lane in Cumberland on May 5, 2017. The City of Ottawa is setting up four information to help residents affected by the flood. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

City officials say It will be at least four weeks before Ottawa residents affected by flooding can return to something resembling normal.

"And even then, it won't be normal," city manager Steve Kanellakos said Wednesday.

The city says 346 properties on its side of the Ottawa River have been affected by the flood.

To help prepare for the aftermath, the city has set up four new information centres for residents in Cumberland, Britannia, Woodlawn, and Fitzroy Harbour. The centres will be staffed by city and public health workers, as well as representatives from the Red Cross and Salvation Army, who will be on hand to answer questions and help residents access resources.

The centres will open at noon Wednesday. Those locations are:

  • Community Hall at the R.J. Kennedy Arena, 1115 Dunning Rd. 
  • Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre East Parking Lot, 102 Greenview Ave. 
  • Constance and Buckham's Bay Community Centre, 262 Len Purcell Dr. 
  • Fitzroy Harbour Community Centre, 100 Clifford Campbell St.
On Thursday and Friday, the centres will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The city says it will provide a schedule for the weekend and the following week soon.
Water surrounds a home on Morin Road in Ottawa's Cumberland ward on Monday, May 8. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Task force to go door-to-door

The city is also setting up special task forces to deal with everything from infrastructure to garbage to communications.

A "human services" task force will focus on water and air quality, sanitation, psychological needs and pets. The human services task force will go door-to-door in flood-affected areas, said Kanellakos.

"They'll make sure people are OK while they're cleaning out their homes and their debris. And they'll also be looking to give people information on contamination.… We need to get things out their house for their own safety."

Dumpsters, drinking water

To help residents clean out their damaged homes, the city will deliver and pick up dumpsters in affected areas.

It's a lesson Mayor Jim Watson said the city learned from the 2009 Kanata floods. 

"One of the greatest frustrations of the public was a lot of old drywall, sopping wet couches and so on and left on the sides of the street in many instances for a couple of weeks at a time," Watson told reporters Wednesday. "So we've got to do better job and a faster job of getting that debris out of the community."

Kanellakos said city workers will deliver drinkable water to residents as they begin to move back into their homes, but warned flood water isn't expected to recede to normal levels for several weeks.

Even then, water quality will be an issue for the affected properties, most of which use well and septic systems.

"That's going to be the longer-term issue. How do they restore their wells? How do they restore their septic systems so they can actually live in their homes?" said Kanellakos.

Concerns over cost

Both Watson and Kanellekos said while the city is not immediately concerned about the price tag for helping residents, there will be a cost.

It's not known yet the extent to which the flood has damaged municipal infrastructure. Already, part of the shoulder along Highway 174 has had to be shored up due to heavy rain, although inspectors have deemed the roadway to be safe.

Kanellakos said he expects ditches and roads will be damaged, and he's worried about the city's own machinery ruining roads.

"You're talking about heavy vehicles going on small, country, rural two-lane roads that are already softened. And we're very worried that we don't inadvertently start ruining the roads people travel on and then we can't even get in to help."

Watson said the city plans to apply to the provincial municipal disaster recovery assistance program, which helps Ontario cities pay for extraordinary costs related to natural disasters.