Grand Forks homes uninhabitable, cleanup continues

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A month after flooding in Grand Forks, residents are still trying to clean out their homes. Jules Knox reports on their challenges – Jun 9, 2018

A month after flooding hit Grand Forks, dozens of people are still left with uninhabitable homes.

Although only nine properties remain under an evacuation order, many are unable to sleep in their own beds as they gut their houses and deal with mould.

Grand Forks resident Petra Nielsen said she’s still waiting to find out if the soil is safe before she sinks too much money into renovations.

“Four weeks after the fact, we still don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said. “On top of having lost everything and seeing your life in shambles, you don’t know if your effort is even worth your while if the soil is contaminated.”

READ MORE: Grand Forks flooding update

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Nielsen is left facing a financial crunch as her home has little resale value.

“On top of our existing mortgages, we have to probably take out more money to pay for the renovations, and then maybe to find out that our land is contaminated,” she said.

READ MORE: Military arrives to provide flood help in Grand Forks

The emergency operations centre understands people are frustrated, but needs more information on the flooding itself before soil testing can be done, said Frances Maika, a spokesperson for the centre.

But if the emergency operations centre expected major contamination, it would be in there testing already, Maika added.

Grand Forks resident Sandra Fry is concerned about a utility pole that she said was put on a dike without the proper permits earlier this year.

Subsequent repair work softened the dike, causing it to breach, she said, adding that other parts of the dike did not breach.

READ MORE: BC Floods: Grand Forks braces for second surge

In an email to Fry, the province confirmed no permits had been issued for work on the dike since 2008.

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“The fact that the failure [happened] at the power pole may be relatively inconsequential, as once over-topped, the chance that the dike will fail somewhere along its length is greatly increased as the land side is often very susceptible to erosion once over-topped,” inspector of dikes Mitchell Hahn wrote.

Meanwhile, according to the emergency operations centre, the area around the utility pole was still intact after the dike was over-topped with water.

“Two feet of water for a very short period of time, for a few hours wouldn’t have done the damage that was done by this break,” Fry said, adding that residents in the area were used to flooding every year.

“There were a lot of things that happened because of this break. It was an instant flow in. It tore apart things,” she said.

Fry also blames the alleged dike breach for the sewer backup and contamination in the neighbourhood.

READ MORE: Grand Forks breathes sigh of relief

Fry has written a letter to B.C.’s premier calling for a provincial inquiry into the matter.

“An inquiry will tell everybody who’s responsible, and if everybody’s place down here is considered worthless, then I would hope that they would do something about it,” she said.

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