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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Annual flood comes early

Temple Avenue homeowner Stuart Dickson stands in front of his waterlogged property Wednesday.The water reached several feet in height along the Bell Ewart property.

Every year, Stuart Dickson's lawn turns into a swimming pool.

But last week, after several days of above 0 C temperatures and rainfall, the swimming pool was built a little earlier than usual. Flooding several feet deep put most of Dickson's Temple Avenue property underwater.

Many of his Belle Ewart neighbours were also affected, and several area streets were closed as a result of the flooding.

But Dickson says most of the neighbourhood is used to the annual rise in water.

"It's not that bad, it happens every year during the springtime," he said, standing on his driveway last week. "It's only for a couple days. It's almost gone already."

Although the flooding is an inconvenience for several homeowners in the area, little can be done to solve the problem. Much of the area affected sits close to Lake Simcoe, along flat, low lying land, said Innisfil mayor Brian Jackson.

A Bell Ewart property was mostly underwater after a large flood throughout the area last week. Several streets were closed in the area, as a result of the flood. The town provided free water for residents on private wells.

"It's a difficult problem to engineer," he said. "In the past, council has tried to do some remedial work. We've examined the culverts, corrected some outflow conditions and changed manhole structures to try and reduce the flooding. But it's part of the geography down there. It's simply prone to flooding; any engineering would have very serious ramifications in terms of cost and timing."

However, the town took several measures to lessen the impact on homeowners. The town has set up a pump in the area affected, to circulate the water.

Staff have also offered free drinking water to residents on private wells and asked South Simcoe Police to monitor the area.

"We're concerned about the bacterial count not being healthy. We've made water available at our water treatment plant," said Jackson.

The Temple Avenue and Balsam Road intersection was under water after last week's flood.

"We've also had police involved to monitor the residents, in case there are any safety issues down there. We're going to continue to monitor the area."

As a result of the flooding, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has advised affected residents who own private wells to avoid drinking their water.

"If your well was flooded, it could have been contaminated," said health unit spokesperson Kathy Dermott. "Until you can get your well water tested, use bottled water for drinking, cooking, making ice, washing (food) or brushing teeth, or boil your water rapidly for at least one minute."

Once flooding has receded, residents should have their wells disinfected and tested several times.

Several other areas within Innisfil were also affected by the high water levels. Although no flooding occurred at Kimberly Hunter-Gafur's Alcona home, rising waters in nearby creeks appear dangerous.

"All my neighbours, their backyards were flooded. We don't have a basement, so we're safe," she said. "There's been some huge floods, and this one was high. You could hear (the water rushing); it sounds like we're living beside Niagara Falls."

The mild weather has also caused most of the ice on the lake to break-up, creating dangerous conditions for snowmobiling and ice-fishing, said York Regional Police Constable Marina Orlovski.

"As a result of the recent milder weather, but despite the fact that ice has begun to form on portions of Lake Simcoe, lakes and streams are not completely frozen and (are therefore) not safe," she said. "There are still many areas of open water on the lake. Those who take part in activities such as snowmobiling and icefishing are reminded that conditions are still too dangerous to be out on the ice."

Anyone testing for ice thickness should wear proper floatation attire. However, residents should know the ice conditions, watch for grey, dark or porous spots, and tell someone about specific plans, before heading onto the lake.

"Snowmobiling and icefishing are inherently risky activities occurring in an uncontrolled and unpredictable natural setting," said Orlovski. "If you make smart, educated choices on safety, accidents can be prevented."

Instructions for disinfecting wells and food handling procedures can be found on the health unit's website at www.simcoemuskokahealth. org.


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