Storm drains a pain for homeowners

By Alex Cooke

The Halifax Regional Municipality’s request that residents clear storm drains near their homes has left some Haligonians unimpressed.

Tyler Antle, a 30-year-old construction worker who lives in Beaver Bank, doesn’t agree with the city’s request, especially with stormwater handling charges now added to water bills.

“If you’re going to charge me to handle stormwater, then handle the stormwater. Why should it be my responsibility to do what I’m essentially paying you to do?” he says.

“If they want us to do it, drop the fee and I will. That’s the way I look at it.”

The city is asking for help because it’s hard to keep track of all the storm drains all the time, says spokesperson Jennifer Stairs.

“Because there are 29,000 of these (drains) across the region, and we certainly can’t get to every single location before every weather event, we’d appreciate if people know where theirs is and are able to clear it safely,” she says.

“If they wish to, that’s certainly a big help to us.”

There are approximately 165 people who work in the city’s winter operations department, she says, and they’re in charge of clearing catch basins, salting and other weather-related duties.

The city is responsible for keeping the catch basins clear, while Halifax Water is in charge of dealing with the water carried through the drains.

In May, Halifax water billing rates had risen by 3.9 per cent, and over the summer, the city decided to implement a storm water handling fee of around $40 a year to be added to homeowner’s water bills.

James Campbell, spokesperson for Halifax Water, says the storm water handling fee has nothing to do with clearing out storm drains.

“The storm water fees are for managing storm water that comes of peoples’ property that gets into the storm water system.”

He says that during last winter’s heavy snowfalls, residents volunteered to help clear storm drains.

Campbell says people should clear storm drains only if they are able to do so.

“If you can’t safely do it, just call 311, and HRM will try to get someone up there to clear it. But they have limited resources, they can’t have crews at every corner all the time,” he says.

“If we can have folks in their neighbourhoods clear out some of their catch basins, that’s great. If they don’t want to do that, that’s great too.”

The city released an interactive map in November showing residents where the nearest storm drains are located.