Efforts to drain Valleyfield pit causes flood

Colin MacLean
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Conservation officer Locke Jones investigates the damage caused by a major washout of a rural Kings County road over the weekend. The onslaught of released water from a private shale pit flooded yards and some basements on the lower end of the Loane Road near Valleyfield.

MONTAGUE — Homeowners along a rural road near here ended up with flooded basements and properties after an attempt to lower the water levels in a shale pit over the weekend went wrong.

“I’ve never, ever had flooding on my land until the other day….it created a total mess,’’ said homeowner Ricky Jenkins, who lives on the Loane Road near Valleyfield.

About a dozen homes and properties were affected — some experiencing more damage than others — after an attempt to control the draining of some high water in a nearby shale pit failed.

Google Map of area

Both the P.E.I. Department of Fisheries and Environment are investigating the incident that became an overwhelming “finger in the dyke” kind of accident. The attempt to drain off the high water levels, due to unusual snowfall this winter, required a back hoe to dig out a siphon gulley into the roadway ditch.

However, the depth seems to have been too excessive and thousands of gallons of water poured out too quickly from a shale pit operated by Kings County Construction.

Following the path of least resistance, the onslaught of water headed down the dirt lane, overflowed ditches, washed out some driveway culverts and submerged much of the lower end of the Loane Road.

“The water was almost up to my knees at my place,” said one homeowner. “When it came rushing down the road it looked like the floodgates had been opened.”

Officials on site were trying to determine what happened and were still collecting statements Monday.

P.E.I. communications officer Wayne MacKinnon said the province is investigating the incident to determine an outcome.

The Guardian contacted Kings County Construction but was told owner Harry Annear was not available and a message would be forwarded.

One provincial employee, who The Guardian agreed not to identify, says he understands the construction firm was trying to drain off some water in the pit because it was flooding the yard of the closest home.

“However, the drain gulley was too deep and the water just took off,” said the employee.

Jenkins said the road was completely submerged Sunday with water up over his ankles.

“The ditches could have handled it if they’d cut a small gulley as a drain,’’ suggested Jenkins. “But you can see how deep the cut is at the pit opening and it just became a flood.”

The pit opening has since been backfilled to prevent more water from draining out. The shale pit is still filled with significant levels of water.

Resident Alfie Foote says he told company officials the gulley was too deep but no one would listen. He shot extensive video of the flood that fisheries officers will be reviewing.

Foote says he got a very non-commital response when he asked if the construction firm would fix his driveway.

The heavy onslaught of water eventually headed to the Valleyfield River at the Maritime Electric pond where an earlier washout along the side of the road is marked by the Department of Highways.

Fisheries officers were reviewing whether the heavy flow, filled with sediment from the shale pit, caused any fish habitat damage.

Organizations: Kings County Construction, PEI Department, Maritime Electric Department of Highways

Geographic location: Valleyfield, Loane Road, Valleyfield River

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