City assessing storm damage, looking at applying to assistance program

HUMBOLDT — The city is still assessing the effects from a recent rainstorm and looking at applying to a program that will help residents pay for any damage.

“We're still trying to get numbers from people,” said Rob Muench, Humboldt’s mayor. “We're asking people, if they did experience any flooding, to let the city know so we have an idea of what the damage was.”

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The Provincial Disaster Assistance Program helps residents, small businesses, agricultural operations and non-profit organizations recover from damage to uninsurable, essential property, but the city has to be approved for assistance first before property owners can apply.

In the meantime, the Red Cross has sent basement cleanup kits that include cleaner/degreaser, gloves, N95 mask, garbage bags, mop, brush, squeegee and push broom. They can be picked up by those affected by flooding at City Hall.

Between 2.5 and four inches of rain fell on Humboldt the evening on June 30.

“Getting a couple inches of rain in a half an hour to an hour taxes pretty much any system,” Muench said. “The other night was especially bad because the ground was still saturated from two weeks earlier and with the rain that came in between those two events.”

Unlike the last major rainfall, which took place June 14, the city didn’t declare a state of emergency. Muench said the provincial office to register the emergency was closed for Canada Day and city staff determined that not having an official state of emergency wouldn’t affect eligibility for government funds for recovery.

The rains did cause a sewer main to collapse on Second Avenue, causing a sinkhole on the road surface. City crew and contractors worked on repairs during the night and the morning of Canada Day.

Due to the national holiday, many city workers and firefighters were away from the city. Police officers and local residents stepped in to help.

“I'd like to commend people with how they helped each other out and helped the city out. We had residents that were putting roadblocks up and stuff,” Muench said. “City guys just couldn't get around to the whole city at the same time, so we appreciated that.”


Study to examine storm sewer system

As to preventing similar damage in the future, Muench pointed to a $20,000 study that will examine the storm sewer system in the west of town and Lift Station #1 located on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Fifth Street.

“We're hiring an engineering firm to do some modeling on our system to see what can be done and what needs to be done,” he said.

“We've had studies done in the past to do a bunch of work that we've already completed, like the retention pond and twinning of some of the pipes on the east end in the city and a number of other things, like the super pipe project that we've done for the sewer system.”

Council voted to allocate provincial Municipal Economic Enhancement Program funding for the study at the June 22 council meeting.

Muench said the infrastructure on the west of the end of the city was added onto existing infrastructure. One solution might be laying a one-meter pipe from the far west end of the city to the far east, which would require roads to be dug up.

As for Lift Station #1, Muench said the last time it was upgraded was at the beginning of the 2010s. Improvements there could include bigger pipes, bigger pumps or an electrical upgrade.

“Part of the study that we've allotted this money to is going to help us work those ideas out,” he said. “Unfortunately most of the solutions to anything that needs to be done are going to be very costly. The work that's been done already has been in the hundreds of thousands and now the next step up is going to be into the millions.”

The mayor said the city is hoping the study unveils more affordable alternatives.

In the meantime, Muench encouraged residents to make sure that sump pumps were not discharging into the sanitary sewer system, which contributes to flooding and could result in the system backing up.

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