'We are almost begging': Constance Bay pleads for help with flood cleanup

The City of Ottawa is urging the army of volunteers who built sandbag walls to hold back the Ottawa River to now re-enlist and tear those walls down.

Army of volunteers that put up sandbags didn't show up Saturday to remove them

Volunteers in Ottawa's Constance Bay neighbourhood help take down a sandbag wall that surrounded Spencer Wood's home on June 1, 2019. The local councillor says more help is desperately needed as the flood-weary residents can't remove all of the sandbags themselves. (Ryan Tumilty/CBC)

The City of Ottawa is urging the army of volunteers who built sandbag walls to hold back the Ottawa River to now re-enlist and tear those walls down.

Saturday was the first day volunteers were called back to start removing tens of thousands of sandbags, but the huge numbers of people that filled them didn't return.

West Carleton-March Coun. Eli-El-Chantiry, whose west Ottawa ward was hit particularly hard by the spring floods, said they desperately need volunteers to show up.

"We are almost begging them to come back and help us. We need the help. We cannot do it on our own," he said.

El-Chantiry said people have been battling the river for more than a month and are running on empty.  

"Those residents are already fatigued. It has been a month-and-a-half of pumping water and sandbagging, and now they have to remove them," he said.

Spencer Wood said having volunteers around has made it much easier to take down the sandbag wall that was protecting his west Ottawa home. (Mike O'Shaughnessy/CBC)

Only 125 people signed up 

Nearly 1.5 million sandbags were filled earlier this spring, with thousands of volunteers and members of the Canadian army on hand to help with the work. 

On Saturday, the city had just 125 people sign up to help with the cleanup.

Spencer Wood had about 20 volunteers at his home in Constance Bay Saturday removing a sandbag wall.

Wood had already started taking down the sandbags himself, but said that without help, the work was slow.

"It is like night and day, to be honest. If this was just me and a couple of other guys, we wouldn't have half this [much] done so far," he said.

As long as residents can get their sandbags to the roadside, the city will cart them away — and that's where volunteers like Robert Barta come in.

It's probably not that exciting, but they need our help.- Volunteer Robert Barta

Barta was building sandbag walls during the worst of the flooding, and said he came back to help Saturday because he knew the need would be there.

"It needs to be cleaned up. It's probably not that exciting, but they need our help," he said. "The community is only as good as the people in it."

The flood waters have declined at Paul Graveline's house, but he said he still has a lot of work to do before things will be anywhere near normal. (Mike O'Shaughnessy/CBC)

'You can only ask so much'

At the height of the floods, the water was swirling around Paul Graveline's house. While he still has a pond in his front yard, his house is mostly dry.

Graveline said he hopes more volunteers will come out next week, but he also understands why numbers were low Saturday.

"They were here in droves when we were bagging, and you can only ask so much of people. [But] I think they will be back," he said. "We could use some help here."

Volunteer registration centres will be open across the city on Sunday and next weekend as well.

The removal work will take place between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Volunteers are asked to report to one of these locations:

  • The  Fitzroy Harbour Community Centre at 100 Clifford Campbell St.
  • The Constance and Buckham's Bay Community Centre at 262 Len Purcell Lane. Volunteers can catch a shuttle to this location from the Innovation Park and Ride.
  • The Ron Kolbus Centre at 102 Greenview Ave.
  • Volunteers can also register at the Trim Park and Ride and be taken to Cumberland to help out.



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