St. Lazare’s Chaline Valley under aerial assault
|Six-year-old Conor Brace is allergic to mosquito bites, so this summer is shaping up to be a nightmare for his parents.
(Photo courtesy Kelly Brace)
by Julie Cadieux
ST. LAZARE — The large and quiet residential area of Chaline Valley is a neighbourhood in the southeastern corner of St. Lazare residents say is infested with mosquitos because of a long-running drainage issue.
The Quinchien River begins its trip to Vaudreuil Bay here, fed by hundreds of hectares of wetlands that result from the poorly drained clay soil to the south. Poor drainage creates ideal breeding conditions for mosquitos and blackflies.
The big issue for residents is that the ditches which are supposed to drain into the Quinchien and its tributaries are constantly blocked due to poor design and maintenance, making for the perfect perfect breeding grounds for mosquitos. Longtime resident Richard Meades has been demanding action from the municipality for years. “Chaline Valley is a mosquito farm,” he says, adding that the Quinchien is nothing but a “cesspool of a creek.”
The area is so wet, basements flood regularly and many residents say their sump pumps are constantly going. “Our ditches here never dry up due to heavy growth in them, while others can’t empty because the culvert under the owner’s driveway is so high that they practically fill up before they start to flow over to the next section,” said Meades.
But the mosquitos are what drive these residents crazy, “it’s like living in a battleground, I swear” says Kelly Brace who’s been flooded twice. “When we pull into the driveway we count to three and run out of the car into the house.” Her son Conor is allergic to the mosquito bites, especially around his face where they swell up.
“Last October we had to go to the Montreal Children’s Hospital because both his eyes swelled up and we were afraid of an infection,” his mother recalls. Another time, his daycare refused to take him, saying he looked like he had some bizarre illness that could make the other kids sick. Luckily, Brace was able to bring him to work with her and not miss a day due to a bad mosquito bite.
“People don’t understand how bad it is,” she went on. “I won’t even open my garage door because they come in and then get into the house. I won’t take out the hose to water my plants. Instead I just fill up pots in the house and quickly run out to water them.”
From spring to fall, she is constantly thinking of how to avoid bites. “We have a decontamination zone in our house,” she half joked. “Right in our entrance hall we have another set of doors we keep closed. When we come in from outside we assess to see how many we’ve let in and try to kill them before any come into the house.”
Mostly she feels bad that her kids don’t want to go play outside during the beautiful summer months and are trapped indoors. She does use bug spray but is cautious. “My son doesn’t like it…he gets some in his eyes and mouth, it can’t be safe to use all the time”.
Kelly’s neighbour across the street wants to sell her house because “she can’t take it anymore.” Another has to organize himself to put his baby daughter in her stroller and cover her with mosquito netting before even stepping outside and added sadly “there are lots of kids and families living here but you never see anyone outside except for fall and winter.”
Residents have made several attempts to speak to the town about the issues of spraying for mosquitos and installing proper storm sewers. Meades recently sent the town a formal complaint and was informed that the proposed drainage procedures would generate major costs that would have to be covered by property owners.
Residents feel the town should foot the bill. “It’s why we pay taxes,” said one. Some are hopeful the new $400 million regional hospital and institutional sector being planned next to Chaline Valley will help reduce the mosquito population by getting rid of a large portion of wetland and forest.
But most agree that unless the drainage ditches, or “mosquito nurseries” as one resident refers to them, are made to drain properly, the mosquitos will be a part of life in the Chaline Valley.
The Hudson St. Lazare Gazette – June 22 2011