05/31/2012 12:02 EDT

Thunder Bay Declared A Disaster Area Following Flood


The city of Thunder Bay is now a 'disaster area'.

City council made the declaration at an impromptu meeting Wednesday night in the wake of a an unprecedented flood that left the city in a state of emergency. The resolution allows the city to obtain funding from senior levels of government.

Mayor Keith Hobbs said he's already spoken with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, who “has assured city council that the province will be there to access funds provincially, and to assist us with accessing federal funds.”

A key theme of the meeting included the cleanup of homes flooded by sewage. Many councillors were concerned homeowners may not be able to afford repair bills, or have insurance coverage.

City manager Tim Commisso said administration is trying to find a way of ensuring homeowners have a safe place to live.

"I think the key is … ensuring that everybody's home gets cleaned up properly,” Commisso said.

The city is still trying to pinpoint exactly how many homes are affected by the flooding.

Manager of Infrastructure and Operations Darrell Matson said the best estimate, so far, is 1,100 homes.

He said the city will also do extra closed-circuit TV checks of sewer lines to see if there's any damage. Matson said some of that repair work could be covered by provincial disaster funding.

In the meantime, the city reports it's making progress with more sewage pumps that have been running around the clock.

“What we're seeing already is a decrease in the amount of water that is backlogged or flooding all of our trunk and sanitary and combined sewers throughout the community,” Matson said.

He noted some homes in the East End had water pour back into the basement as fast as it was pumped out. Matson said that situation is improving, although some homes continue to take on water.

When the sewage plant is deemed safe, workers will try and figure out why the main pump failed, and fix the problem, he added.

During the meeting, Hobbs alluded to the fact the pump at the sewage treatment plant was overwhelmed with the heavy rain.

The affect of the heavy rains could have been greater, Hobbs said. He noted the floodway dredging of last year prevented the flood from being much worse, particularly in the intercity area.