Heavy rains make mess for St. James homeowners

People in Winnipeg’s St. James neighborhood are exhausted and frustrated from cleaning up messes after heavy spring rain and a sewer blockage swamped homes. 

More than a dozen people on Truro Street had sewage and water back up into their basements last week. And as the rain continues to pour down, that flooding isn’t over. 

“Pretty frustrated,” said St. James resident Ben Jones. “Burning up my vacation time dealing with problems that are harder than going to work.”

A mix of sewage and water flooded Jones’s basement about 30 centimetres high and his insurance isn’t enough to cover everything that’s been lost. Some of those items include personal artifacts like a box full of his children’s artwork, he said. 

“We can clean our furnace, have it serviced, we don’t have to get it replaced, but between all the machines and stuff down here, we’re definitely not going to get back what we lost,” he said.

A man in a jean jacket
Ben Jones said some item were lost that aren’t replaceable. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Jones isn’t the only one facing damage. 

Chris Kostiuk also lives on Truro Street and said he’s out a few thousand dollars because of the damages. 

“We got to get the rest of the stuff out of our basement and finish off tearing up the rest of the carpet,” said Kostiuk,

“Unfortunately we didn’t have a sewer backup in our home insurance plan, so anything we do do is either on us to do ourselves or to pay for ourselves unless the city comes back with something.”

A person with a hat and glasses.
Chris Kostiuk said he’s out of a few thousand dollars because of the damages. (Gary Solilak/CBC )

The City of Winnipeg said in an email to CBC News it discovered a blockage in a nearby sewer pipe and crews have been on site over the last few days. 

But the cleaning has been a struggle and a city spokesperson said for now, they’re bypassing the blockage with the pump. Crews also found a manhole and another sewer pipe in bad shape, the spokesperson said. 

The city also said homeowners should check to make sure they know what kind of flooding infrastructure is in their basement and that everything is in working condition. 

A backwater valve is required in homes built after 1979. It prevents sewage in an overloaded main sewer line from backing up into basements. 

A sump pit drainage system is also required in homes built after 1990. It has a pit in the basement floor that collects water from weeping tiles around your home and a pump inside it to push water in the pit to the outside through a hose, the city’s statement said. 

Residents can file claim against city for damages: spokesperson

The area is a combined sewer district, which is more prone to sewer backups in rainy weather.

Coun, Brian Mayes, who chairs the City of Winnipeg’s Water, Waste and Environment Committee, isn’t shocked problems are surfacing in St. James. 

We’re conscious of the problem out there,” he said.  “We’re pouring tens of millions of dollars in. I’d like to do it more quickly, and this is probably a good example of why we need to do that.” 

Meanwhile, the headache isn’t over for Jones. Thursday night showers brought even more sewage and water. Jones said he wants to know how the city is going to help people on his street. 

The city spokesperson told CBC News residents can file a claim against the city for the damage. 

“”I was worried about it, but the city’s been out here on the front pumping our sewers empty for a week,” said Jones. “So I thought with the obvious rain coming, that they were going to continue to be on top of it.”