City cancels waiting list for free service
Everyone will have to pay for their own service
(Written March 3 for Town Crier.)
The city has reneged on a promise to provide free downspout disconnections for almost 900 homeowners in North York.
In a budget-cutting move on Feb. 23, the city voted to end this free service as of March 1.
About 7,000 Toronto households on the waiting list will now have to pay out of their own pocket. What’s more, anyone who doesn’t disconnect their downspout by the mandated time may face court-imposed fines.
The city requires downspout disconnection to avoid sewer back-ups during heavy storms. This forces water run-off from a roof eavestrough to pour into a front yard rather than filter into a road sewer. The lawn absorption also takes strain off water treatment processing plants.
Back in 2007, the city voted to move from a voluntary program where the city offered the service for free to those who requested it to a mandatory one where residents pay.
In response, 37,600 people signed up before the cut-off date and since then, staff has been working their way through the applications.
It got whittled down to under 7,000 as of Jan. 28, but those on the list waited in vain.
Cancelling the free service now will save Toronto $673,000 in operating costs annually and $7.8 million total in capital costs over three years. On average it costs the city $1,000 per resident to provide this service including paying a contractor, contract procurement costs, inspection and administrative costs.
Lou Di Gironimo, city manager of Toronto Water, said homeowners can do the disconnection themselves for $50-100 for an easy job or several hundred for a more complicated project.
The city offers residents a five-step do it yourself guide at www.toronto.ca/water.
The city’s mandatory downspout disconnection program will be phased in starting this November for the older sections of Toronto and East York as far north as Eglinton and west as the Humber River. By December 2013, homeowners in 32 zones prone to basement flooding will have to disconnect their downspouts and by the end of 2016 everyone else must come on board unless an exemption is made.