Frustrated, exhausted residents call for action on flooded homes in Happy Valley-Goose Bay

·4 min read
It's not yet clear why some houses in Happy Valley-Goose Bay have been hit by groundwater flooding while neighbouring homes have been not.  (Leslie Amminson/CBC - image credit)
It's not yet clear why some houses in Happy Valley-Goose Bay have been hit by groundwater flooding while neighbouring homes have been not. (Leslie Amminson/CBC - image credit)
Leslie Amminson/CBC
Leslie Amminson/CBC

Residents in areas of Happy Valley-Goose Bay are calling on the town to speed up its response to groundwater flooding that's left them financially and emotionally exhausted.

Groundwater has been seeping into basements and crawl spaces in numerous neighbourhoods in town, and in at least one case, the flooding has persisted for the past three summers.

Debbie Keats, who lives on Rendell Crescent, had just finished renovating her nine-foot basement when groundwater started entering her home on May 13.

Since then, she and her husband have been pumping water out of their basement 24 hours a day, and running industrial fans to prevent mould damage.

"It's been a very frustrating situation for us. We're exhausted mentally, physically, financially," Keats said.

"It's going to be a nightmare for us to get resolution … and the situation has to be resolved before we can even consider fixing our house back to the way it was."

Keats's home insurance doesn't cover groundwater flooding, leaving her with a bill for thousands of dollars she'll need to cover herself. On top of that, her heat bill has tripled from running everything she needs to keep water out of her home.

Leslie Amminson/CBC
Leslie Amminson/CBC

Keats, who addressed Happy Valley-Goose Bay's town council at a meeting last week, has been leading the charge of residents calling for the town to take action and address the issue. She says she knows of at least eight other families who are dealing with flooding, but few have spoken out. She figures people are reluctant to talk about the flooding for fear their property value could go down.

Not all houses in the affected areas are experiencing the problem, and it's not clear why certain homes are flooding while neighbouring ones are left untouched.

'I wouldn't wish this on anybody'

It's not just Rendell Crescent that's having flooding problems, either. Jordan and Dora Curl, who live about a kilometre and a half away on Mitchell Street, have had flooding in their basement since the end of April.

Like Keats, they have sump pumps working day and night to keep the water out. Sometimes, though, the pumps fail. The Curls try not to leave their house together for fear that might happen while they're gone. Even when they are there to change the pumps over, it's very stressful.

"You've got a matter of seconds to try to keep the water from coming in on the floor even faster," Jordan Curl said in an interview, recalling one of those moments.

"I wouldn't wish this on anybody. The noise was unbelievable, it was scary."

Jordan and Dora Curl say the town hasn't told them what's causing the issue or when they can expect it to be resolved, despite reporting the flooding more than two months ago.

They're speaking out, demanding the town take swifter action.

CBC has made multiple requests to speak with Happy Valley-Goose Bay Mayor Wally Andersen and Randy Dillon, the town's director of engineering, but they have not agreed to an interview.

Drainage issues under review

At last week's council meeting, Dillon said the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay has hired a hydrogeologist to research what's behind the flooding.

The town also received a report from CBCL, a consulting company, that shows preliminary data about drainage issues in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

We need to take action and we need some resolution now. - Debbie Keats

Dillon said CBCL should have a tender package ready at the end of this week to be reviewed by the province's Department of Transportation and Infrastructure. The value of that work would be about $400,000 and would be cost-shared with the province, which is contributing more than $250,000.

But Wendy Howell, a resident on Mitchell Street, says she's heard that before. Howell's house has been flooding for the past three years, and she's yet to see the town step in to solve the problem.

"We were told this three years ago with the exact same story that they're telling us," she said in an interview. "We heard three years ago that the [hydrogeologist] was going to come in, assess the problem, see what the problem was, and the town engineer would fix it."

In an email, Dillon said CBCL is currently finalizing a scope of work for the second phase of a water table study in the town. This phase of the study would focus on the water table position, and how that changes from April to October, the period when residents are experiencing flooding. It would also look at how to redirect the groundwater to an area where it wouldn't cause more flooding.

But, Dillon noted, it will take a few months to collect the data needed to consider potential solutions.

For Debbie Keats, that's not good enough.

"There's no doubt [the town council has] demonstrated concern, but I brought this to their attention on the day that it happened, which was May 13," she said. "There's lots of water down in this area and before long, it's going to be filling into more basements and more people's houses. We need to take action and we need some resolution now."

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