Local restoration companies are raising concerns about the condition of Ottawa’s sewer system after record rainfall last week triggered what one small business owner called a “mayhem” of flooding and damage.
After Ottawa “faced more than 77 millimetres of rainfall on Thursday,” CBC News reports, “videos of water gushing out of bathtubs and toilets gripped and revolted local social media users.” Now, repair crews are “seeing the aftermath: damaged flooring, furniture, and personal possessions after unsanitary water surged up to fill basements.”
“We’re not talking portions of basements—we’re talking entire basement,” Deven Raval, owner of PuroClean, told CBC. “Six to eight inches of water came in, which is quite severe… that’s a huge volume of water kicking back.”
That can only mean that “something went very wrong with the sewer systems in Ottawa,” he added.
“It’s widespread. It’s all over the place,” agreed Richard Green, CEO of the local franchise of Paul Davis restoration. “There’s varying degrees of damage. Some of them are pretty catastrophic, where there’s been a lot of water going into people’s houses and it’s upset their whole routine and their lives.”
Green said sewage water backing up into homes and basements isn’t just gross—it’s also a health risk.
“People want to just think it’s storm sewer and it’s water runoff,” he said. “But when the storm sewers overflow, they do have the possibility of mixing in with the sewage.”
And that means “you’ve got to be very careful,” Raval said. “A lot of people were literally walking in their basements not understanding that this was sewage.” But “if you’ve got cuts or anything like that on your feet, you don’t know the bacteria that’s in that water,” and “the health risk is quite, quite serious.”
Raval said his company had fielded 70 customer calls by Friday morning, four-fifths of them related to sewage, compared to five on a normal day. As restoration companies triage the emergencies, and while flooded roads added to crews’ response times, he urged residents to remove as much water as possible themselves, separate wet possessions from dry ones, and “allow the house to breathe” by opening windows.
“Remember, you’ve got pathogenic water,” he cautioned. “Once that dries out, you’re aerosolizing those pathogens, you’re breathing in those contaminants. There’s the odour and then, obviously, our homes are built of a lot of organic material. You’ve got mould and fungi that grows afterwards. You have to address this quickly.”
A typical restoration claim can run C$5,000 to $10,000, Green said.