Home / News / NDG residents call on Montreal to renovate underground infrastructure after floods

NDG residents call on Montreal to renovate underground infrastructure after floods

Dec 18, 2023Dec 18, 2023

Ahmed Sayed's apartment building in Montreal's west end may have a dry basement today, but it was filled to the brim with water on July 13 due to torrential rains.

The city declared the building unsafe, so he moved into a hotel for about two weeks with his wife and four children. Now they're back home, but they don't feel secure.

"I'm not sure if the building is safe for us or not," said Sayed, who lives on Coronation Street in western Notre-Dame-de-Grâce — an area that was hit hard when a month's worth of rain fell in about two hours.

Sayed lost his car and belongings that were in a basement storage room. To top it off, his insurance is refusing to cover the cost of the hotel. But what bothers him the most is the city's failure to act.

"We called the city many times," he said.

The city ordered the evacuation, but refused to provide solutions, he said.

Other residents, along with members of the city's opposition party, held a news conference on Wednesday, calling on the city to make much-needed renovations to the city's underground infrastructure so there are no more drainage backups during heavy rainstorms.

Coun. Stéphanie Valenzuela, who represents the Darlington electoral district for Ensemble Montréal, said the city must examine which areas are more at risk and what work needs to be done to the infrastructure.

"There is a lack of transparency," she said. "There is a lack of accountability and there is a lack of willingness to act, and to find solutions."

Resident Ilana Grostern is the co-administrator of a Facebook group for flood victims that has more than 300 members. She spoke during the news conference, saying at least 600 residences were affected.

She said the city is relying on "climate change rhetoric to absolve itself of a very long-standing responsibility toward its constituents to maintain effective infrastructure that protects us in times of crisis."

She said the infrastructure has been a problem since the 1950s, and is not a new issue. Were it simply a matter of climate change, she said, the flooding would have been more widespread across the city rather than so isolated to a sector within the municipal electoral district of Loyola.

Videos posted to her Facebook group show water filling the streets and rapidly flowing into homes.

Weeks later, piles of garbage and demolition debris remain in front of residential buildings. In the basement of Sayed's building, little remains but mould and trashed laundry machines.

"This problem is not going away and we are not going away," said Grostern, calling on the city to repair the infrastructure.

The flood damage was mostly concentrated to Loyola, which is represented by Coun. Despina Sourias of Projet Montréal — the party that holds a majority in the borough of Côte-Des-Neiges—NDG and at city hall.

Montreal spokesperson Béatrice Saulnier-Yelle offered her sympathies to residents in the affected areas who have been facing challenging circumstances since the torrential rainstorm.

"Our infrastructure, both in cities and residences, is becoming more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and repetitive heavy rains. We are actively working to prepare our territory accordingly," Saulnier-Yelle wrote in an email to CBC News.

She emphasized that areas located in natural basins and experiencing recurrent flooding are currently the priority for sewage network improvements.

However, she added, infrastructure enhancements alone are not enough.

The solutions must also include improvements to public spaces and buildings, so when a month's worth of rain falls in just two hours, it isn't up to the sewage network alone to drain all the water at once, she said.

Moreover, the city has urgently requested funding from the Quebec government to establish a green pact, aiming to accelerate climate-change adaptation efforts.

Montreal remains committed to finding comprehensive solutions and building a more resilient future for its residents amid the challenges posed by climate change and extreme weather events, Saulnier-Yelle said.

with files from Sara Eldabaa