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City staff heeds alarm of scientist over sewers
Sun, December 9, 2007
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City hall staff want council to heed the warning of a London scientist who says storm sewers will be overwhelmed by torrential rains brought on by global warming.

Slobodan Simonovic, who directs the University of Western Ontario's Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, has convinced staff to take a new look at sewer standards.

Adopted in 1962, the standards are so old that no one can find the data or methods used to create them.

"They now realize the seriousness of the issue," Simonovic said.

He has projected future storms, using a best and worst case scenario -- the latter requiring much bigger drains, pipes and storm management ponds that they would prohibitively costly.

"These numbers are huge. The cost is unbearable for the city," Simonovic said.

He's already convinced Ron Standish, the city's director of waste water and treatment, that climate change appears to be real and having an effect on London's rainfall.

"Our experience with the rainfall is that it's changing. I accept the experts saying there is climate change," Standish said.

He wants the city to update calculations used to project the demands created by severe storms, using more recent rainfall to project the future, then start putting price tags on the city's options.

His recommendations will go tomorrow to the city's environment and transportation committee.

There is a cost to doing nothing, Simonovic has noted. In recent years super storms caused major floods in Peterborough and Stratford, the latter leading to a $220-million lawsuit against that city.

And he's not alone in his concerns.

Environment Canada recommends changing flood control to accommodate what may be more severe storms brought on by the changing climate.

Simonovic's research predicts severe summer storms will raise the Thames River to record levels, beyond what led to the biggest recorded flood in London's history in 1937.

His research has also intensified the debate on council about development along the Thames River, with proponents of the status quo butting heads with those who want to consider more restrictions.

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