August 23, 2018 5:54 pm

Flood-weary residents of Toronto Downsview neighbourhood demand accountability

WATCH ABOVE: When rain hit the GTA hard earlier this month, homes in a North York neighbourhood suffered extensive damage. As Caryn Lieberman reports, homeowners say the rain alone is not the cause of the problem.


Renata Zavattin walks downstairs to survey the damage to her basement two weeks after it was flooded.

When rain fell in torrents across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Zavattin’s North York neighbourhood was particularly hard hit.

“A disaster! And now? Again!” she exclaimed.

For nearly 45 years, Zavattin has lived in her Downsview-area home without issue.

READ MORE: Toronto’s density, old sewer system lead to issues with flooding amid heavy rainfall

Everything changed around five years ago, she said, with construction on the Humber River Hospital and then a retention pond beside it.

The province owns the stormwater management pond by Ridge Park, which is managed by Infrastructure Ontario.

A spokesperson noted, “Since its construction as part of the site redevelopment in 2015, the reservoir has been operating as designed.”

Area residents see it differently.

“The water is coming down here,” said a frustrated Zavattin, who has resorted to putting in ceramic flooring in her basement, which she said is easier to manage in a flooding situation.

WATCH: Toronto flooding here to stay, urban planning expert says

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Her neighbour Lilla Bharath is also dealing with the aftermath of a massive flood. It is not her first time either.

“Five years ago, I had the same thing,” she explained, adding, through tears, “a part of what’s happening here today is through the hospital.”

Bharath’s husband died nearly a year ago. She is now struggling to cover the cost of repairing her basement, which has been estimated at $20,000. Her insurance picked up the tab last time.

City Coun. Maria Augimeri blames the provincial government.

“Ever since they built the GTA’s largest hospital on Wilson Avenue, they have been negligent about taking care of the surplus water that has been created on the site,” Augimeri said.

READ MORE: Toronto rain storm: What to do if your home is flooded

Augimeri said Ontario has “caused agony” for her constituents as the water has penetrated their backyards and basements repeatedly.

“We’ve been begging them for eight years to come clean up their mess. All they did was put a danger fence around the area. Well, the danger fence doesn’t stop the water,” she said.

Ian McConachie, a spokesperson for Infrastructure Ontario, said the organization has “heard the concerns raised by residents about the accumulation of water in the area.”

He added, “Infrastructure Ontario, together with the city and the Ministry of Transportation, will examine whether the accumulation relates to broader storm water management infrastructure. That includes the sewers on Ridge Rd., excess runoff from Ridge Rd., the ditch along Highway 401 and the storm water management pond.”

READ MORE: Men trapped in Toronto elevator during flash flood ‘prayed,’ vowed to get out ‘no matter what’

But he noted, “There is no evidence to suggest that the pond is the cause of flooding in the area … the reservoir has been operating as designed.”

Newly-elected MPP for York Centre Roman Baber sent Global News a statement which said, “What is clear is that the previous Liberal government neglected the residents around Ridge Park and Downsview Avenue impacted by frequent flooding when they cancelled important infrastructure projects.”

Meanwhile, the homeowners said they’re at a loss, both financially and emotionally, and want someone to take responsibility for it once and for all.

“They never come around to see if we’re alive or dead,” Bharath said.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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