This is not the first time 526 Trenton Street has flooded, but for Michelle Langille, who has lived there for 25 years, the flooding on Monday has been by far the most destructive.
“I want help. I’m going to need help. Everything’s lost.”
It started in the early hours on Monday morning. Langille went to bed at 11 p.m. and was woken three hours later by a loud clatter downstairs.
“My deep freezer was moved away from the wall. I had a crockpot on there and that’s what woke us up, the sound of it falling,” recalls Langille.
On July 4, she stood in her home, pointing out the damage.
A watermark nearly one foot above the ground could be seen in the kitchen. The floor from the back door to the front was still damp.
One of the biggest losses for Langille, who works as a VON nurse, was the loss of her car. It had been completely submerged in her driveway.
“I had all my VON equipment in there,” Langille said, as she opened the door of her 2017 Toyota Corolla.
The humidity inside the car was overpowering.
Damp mud coated the floor and ceiling.
The cup holders by the emergency brake were still filled to the brim.
The damage to her car has been especially trying. Langille needs it for work.
“I already missed three days, and I’ll probably miss more time because I won’t have a car tomorrow,” she said.
Langille is currently living at her daughter’s house in Stellarton. She is fifth on a waiting list for a rental car.
Both the car and her house sit at the bottom of a depression in the earth on the right-hand side of Trenton road leaving New Glasgow.
At the back of the property, there is a large concrete culvert. It carries water from one side of the train tracks to the other.
Early on July 1, Pictou County was treated to a heavy downpour.
As previously reported, rainfall in the early hours of Canada Day caused multiple washouts in the Town of Westville.
That same weather caused a rapid accumulation of runoff in the culverts behind Langille’s house.
The water continued to rise in her backyard, over her car and up to her back deck, which was torn from the house.
In separate interviews, New Glasgow CAO Lisa MacDonald and town engineer Earl MacKenzie told The News the town’s infrastructure was not blocked.
That does not sit well with Langille. She blames the town for not properly inspecting culverts she considers the municipality’s responsibility.
“Nobody is owning up to the responsibility for ownership of the drains,” she said.
Who owns what?
The culvert that brought the overland water into Langille’s backyard and home is owned by the railway, specifically Genesee & Wyoming Inc.
The rail freight company owns or leases regional freight railroads all over North America, including the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway line that runs behind Langille’s house and throughout Pictou county.
“There was no backup on the other side of the railway that I’m aware of, so the water did come through the two pipes that you see under the railway,” says New Glasgow chief engineer Earl MacKenzie.
“The infrastructure under the road would be owned by the town.”
Both MacKenzie and MacDonald say this infrastructure was also unblocked, and that the blockage came from the two catch basins on Langille’s property.
“The two catch basins that were on the home-owner’s property appeared to be blocked, not maintained and unable to take water away from their property.”
Even if the drains are on her property, Langille said they are in no way able to deal with the amount of water that rushed through the railway culverts.
“It was way too much water to expect that to carry the load,” Langille told The News.
This is not the first time Langille’s property has flooded.
A less destructive flood hit her property back in the fall of 2008. According to Langille, the Town had helped her deal with the situation.
“They came down and sand-bagged my basement when we had a storm back in October 2008. If you can take responsibility back then, then why not now?”
The flood-prone property was not insured for overland flooding, but Langille said she still wants the town to find a long-term solution to avoid future incidents like these.
“There’s no point in my fixing it up if this is going to keep happening,” she told The News.
Langille is not convinced the flooding was a result of the blocked drains on her property.
So, she says if a long-term solution can’t be found, she at least wants the town to give her a fair price for the house and help with start-up costs as she finds a new home.
“I want a fair price for my house, damages, and start-up costs to find a new place.”
MacKenzie told The News that Public Works is still assessing the property and will bring the findings to council for consideration.