MAY STARTS WITH A SPLASH

Heavy down­pours cre­at­ing trou­ble for residents along Hamil­ton Beach Strip

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW VAN DONGEN The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor thes­pec.com mvan­don­gen@thes­pec.com 905-526-3241 | @Mat­tatthes­pec

Heavy rains left sev­eral base­ments flooded, and partly sub­merged the Wa­ter­front Trail

Ris­ing lake lev­els and strong winds are mak­ing a soupy, dan­ger­ous mess of Hamil­ton’s wa­ter­front — and a grow­ing num­ber of flooded base­ments on the Beach Strip.

The Hamil­ton Con­ser­va­tion Au­thor­ity is­sued a safety re­minder about flood­ing Mon­day and the city closed large swaths of a flooded Wa­ter­front Trail — al­though that didn’t stop residents from snap­ping photos of drowned benches, light stan­dards and ac­cu­mu­lated de­bris. The surg­ing lake also poses a threat to the low-ly­ing Beach Strip, where about a dozen home­own­ers have re­ported flood­ing to Ward 5 Coun. Chad Collins.

“The last time it was this bad for us was in the ’70s. We’ve been pump­ing wa­ter out and out non-stop for a week,” said Mar­garet Elliott, 80, who has lived in her Bay­side Av­enue home on the strip since 1966.

Elliott said her base­ment flooded af­ter her sump pump burned out. Her son came over in time with a re­place­ment to save the fur­nace, but not the hot wa­ter heater. “It’s quite a mess. Half the street is un­der­wa­ter … hoses run­ning ev­ery which way with peo­ple try­ing to get rid of the wa­ter.”

Wa­ter lev­els in Lake On­tario have risen by about 40 cen­time­tres since the be­gin­ning of April and are among the high­est recorded at this time since the early 1990s, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Joint Com­mis­sion.

Com­pound­ing mat­ters were strong winds that pushed wave “surges” onto the shore­line, con­tribut­ing to ero­sion and de­posit­ing “ex­tra­or­di­nary” amounts of de­bris that city work­ers were still clean­ing up Mon­day, said pub­lic works head Dan McKin­non.

That in­cludes an­other flood of flushed health prod­ucts — in­clud­ing used tam­pons and even some nee­dles — that tend to build up in the har­bour as a re­sult of sewage plant and storm sewer over­flows.

For ex­am­ple, the maxed out plant was forced to al­low un­treated or par­tially treated sewage flow into Red Hill Creek — and ul­ti­mately the har­bour — for sev­eral hours April 19 when parts of the city were hit with the equiv­a­lent of a month of rain. (The city has la­belled that storm a “dis­as­ter” to al­low residents to ap­ply for com­pas­sion­ate grants.)

The city is clean­ing up, but storm­surge ero­sion could de­lay re­open­ing of parts of the Wa­ter­front Trail even af­ter the mess is gone. City staff has also been re­spond­ing to flood­ing com­plaints along the beach strip — but there’s not much they can of­fer, other than “ed­u­ca­tion” about the strip’s his­tory of flood­ing, said Collins.

“Peo­ple who have lived their lives here know what can hap­pen but if you just moved in, it’s prob­a­bly a bit of a shock,” said Collins, not­ing his­tor­i­cal flood­ing in the 1970s spurred in­fra­struc­ture and reg­u­la­tory changes along the Beach Boule­vard com­mu­nity. Al­though the city has in­stalled new pump­ing sta­tions and changed build­ing rules to ban full base­ments in new beach strip hous­ing, Collins said even in a “nor­mal” year he still re­ceives reg­u­lar calls about spring flood­ing.

“It (the flood­ing) is not un­ex­pected, but this year is un­usual be­cause of the high lev­els. The num­bers could get worse if the wa­ter lev­els keep ris­ing,” he said.

Un­der a new wa­ter man­age­ment plan, the bi­na­tional board of con­trol that over­sees the Great Lakes re­cently cut flows out of Lake On­tario to pre­vent po­ten­tially “ex­ten­sive” flood dam­age down­stream in the St. Lawrence.

But a post on the In­ter­na­tional Joint Com­mis­sion web­site says the high wa­ter lev­els in the lakes are a “di­rect re­sult” of high rain amounts in April in the Great Lakes basin, not the new plan. It says even un­der the old man­age­ment plan, lake lev­els would have been sim­i­larly high this spring.

BARRY GRAY, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

A woman shielded by an um­brella makes her way through the rain and fog along the Moun­tain brow be­hind Ju­ravin­ski Hospi­tal on Mon­day, as our soggy April con­tin­ues into May.

Above: Trash along the Wa­ter­front Trail, pho­tographed Sun­day night. Right: A pickup truck splashes its way through a large pud­dle in the south­bound lanes of East­port Drive on Mon­day.

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