FREDERICTON (GNB) – Residents impacted by flooding should consider beginning cleaning up properties as soon as water has receded. Past experience has shown that starting the cleanup process quickly can help reduce loss and damage to property. However, residents should only return to their homes when it is safe to do so.

As homeowners return to water-damaged properties, they are advised to remove water-soaked walls and insulation, and allow the space and studding to dry thoroughly. Walls constructed of gyprock, plaster or wood will dry out in time, but insulation in these walls is no longer effective. As insulation becomes water-soaked the weight causes it to settle and compact at the bottom, leaving a large portion of the wall no longer insulated.

Residents should consider the following safety tips when beginning the cleanup process:

  • Wear protective equipment, including gloves, a mask and goggles to protect eyes, mouth and skin during cleanup.
  • Any items that were wet with flood water and cannot be cleaned and dried completely within 24 to 48 hours should be taken outside.
  • Take photos of discarded items for filing insurance claims.
  • Open all doors and windows while working, and leave them open when leaving the house if possible.
  • When electricity is safe to use, use fans and dehumidifiers to remove moisture.
  • If using cleaning products, do not mix them together. Do not mix bleach and ammonia in particular, because it can create toxic vapours.
  • Clean with water and a detergent.
  • Fix the water problem and ensure surfaces are clean and dry before attempting to paint or caulk.
  • Dry the home and everything in it quickly– within 24 to 48 hours is possible.

A website is now available with additional information and links for homeowners as they begin to clean up.

Flood recovery

The Canadian Red Cross is offering flood cleaning kits to New Brunswickers who are able to safely re-enter their homes and begin cleanup. The free kits can be picked up at its offices at 120 MacDonald St. (Loch Lomond Place) in Saint John and 318 Maple St. in Fredericton from 8:30 a.m. until 7 p.m., including during weekend.

There is a limit of one kit per household. The kits are self-contained in a 20-litre (five-gallon) plastic container that also serves as a bucket and lid, and is filled with useful items such as a mop, broom, squeegee, scrub brush, sponges, work gloves and latex gloves, masks, garbage bags and a bleach-based, all-purpose cleaner.

Before cleaning a home that was flooded, residents are urged to contact insurers where applicable, and to record and register all damage with Service New Brunswick online.

If residents find sewage has backed up into their home, they should wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves if in contact with water and during cleanup. They should wash their hands with warm water and soap after removing the rubber gloves.

The Public Health website has more details about safe cleanup procedures.

Volunteer opportunities

In an effort to assist City of Saint John residents who have been impacted by flooding, the Saint John Emergency Measures Organization initiated a call for volunteers to assist with a major community cleanup effort this weekend. Volunteers are being provided with all of the supplies and transportation required to safely help residents remove debris and damaged materials from their homes. The City’s transportation and environment crews have been working alongside the volunteers to collect and properly dispose of the debris and material.

The volunteer effort has been ongoing over the weekend and will continue until 8 p.m. today. Volunteers are asked to register at Harbour Station, 99 Station St., until 3 p.m. today.

Property owners in need of volunteer assistance can register to request support by calling 506-658-2910.

Samaritan’s Purse Canada is also in New Brunswick, offering its services to assist with cleanup. People looking to volunteer their time to flood relief can contact them at 1-844-547-2663.

Team Rubicon Canada, a veteran-led disaster-relief organization, is on the ground in New Brunswick monitoring the situation and co-operating with government officials.

Canadian Red Cross

Residents affected by flooding can get assistance by calling the Canadian Red Cross at 1-800-863-6582. People who have already evacuated and did not require accommodations should still register with the Red Cross. The registry will assist the Red Cross with its support efforts.

Donations can be made to the Canadian Red Cross to support those affected by the flood. Funds will be used for immediate and ongoing relief efforts, long-term recovery, resiliency and preparedness. Anyone interested in donating can call 1-800-418-1111 or visit www.redcross.ca.

Disaster financial assistance

The provincial government has launched a Disaster Financial Assistance program to help small businesses, municipalities and individuals who suffered property damage following the current freshet season. Information is available online.

The program provides assistance for eligible damage and losses that threaten the health and safety of individuals, municipalities and small businesses. The maximum assistance for structural repairs to private residences is $160,000, while the maximum for small businesses and not-for-profit organizations is $500,000.

The Disaster Financial Assistance program covers the same items as the federal program. The qualifying criteria as established by the federal government can be found online.

Drinking water

Private water supplies may be affected by chemicals such as furnace oil, gasoline or agricultural chemicals. If residents believe their well has been contaminated by such chemicals, they should not use the water, even if it has been boiled.

Once the water recedes from your well and you do not suspect chemical contamination, ensure you bring your water to a rolling boil for at least 1 minute prior to drinking, making juice and ice cubes, washing fruits and vegetables, cooking, or dental hygiene.

Continue to boil your water until your well has been disinfected and then tested for harmful bacteria. You should wait at least 10 days after the water has receded before disinfecting your well.

The provincial government is providing free testing for water from private wells that have been directly affected by recent flooding. Beginning May 17, water sampling kits will be available at Service New Brunswick centres for owners of private wells.

More information regarding well safety can be found by visiting the Department of Environment and Local Government’s website.

Sandbag disposal

The Department of Environment and Local Government encourages people to dispose of sandbags via pickups or at their regional landfill.

Residents are reminded that the bags may not be emptied into or within 30 metres of any watercourse or regulated wetland. An alteration permit is required for any work within 30 metres of a watercourse or regulated wetland.

If these options are not viable, people may dispose of their sandbags as part of their flood-related debris.

People are advised to contact one of the department’s regional offices for more information if the sandbags are clearly contaminated (by oil, odour, etc.).

For any questions related to locations of remediation sites and proper disposal of flood-damaged items, contact a regional office of the Department of Environment and Local Government during regular business hours:

  • Saint John Region, 506-658-2558
  • Fredericton Region, 506-444-5149

Road closures

There are still roads closed due to flooding. Many roads have been covered by a significant amount of water for an extended period of time. Municipal and provincial officials must inspect closed roads, culverts and bridges before they are reopened to determine if remedial work is necessary to make them safe for motorists. New Brunswickers are asked to remain patient and continue to respect barricades. More details on road closures are available online.

Mental health

The will be more to the recovery process than rebuilding and fixing homes and businesses. The thought of the task ahead may cause stress and anxiety. This is normal.

People react in different ways to stressful events. It is important for residents experiencing stress to talk about their feelings of sorrow, anger and other strong emotions.

If in crisis, there are several 24-hour emergency numbers that are available to help, including CHIMO helpline (1-800-667-5005); Tele-Care (811); and Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868). More information and resources are available online.