Toronto homes built before the 1960’s generally had their downspouts connected to the sewer system. That may have been a good idea at the time, but now it’s become a major problem. As the city has grown, the capacity of the sewer system has become seriously strained, especially since much of the city has combined sanitary and storm sewers. Any time there is a big rainstorm, the extra storm water directed to the sewers via downspouts increases the risk of sewer backups and basement flooding, an unpleasant occurrence to say the least.
Accordingly, the City of Toronto has passed a new bylaw making it mandatory to disconnect any of these old downspouts that still feed the sewer system. The bylaw is being implemented in three phases, according to this map. The first phase, which was effective as of November 20, covers most of the old City of Toronto south of Lawrence; the rest of the city will be phased in over the next five years. If you live in the Phase 1 area, now is the time to get your downspouts disconnected; you could be subject to a fine if you don’t (though I doubt that the City will be hiring any gutter police).
In addition to the fact that it’s mandatory, and that you will be doing your civic duty by disconnecting your downspouts, there is at least one other selfish reason to get this done now. Most of the old downspouts connect to the sewer line via clay pipes underground, and many of these old pipes are likely damaged. If so, then a lot of the water is actually being directed right against your home’s foundation rather than into the sewer system. Since most of the older homes in Toronto do not have modern style foundation waterproofing, this means that you are adding to the risk of moisture problems in your basement by not disconnecting the downspouts.
For more information, check out the City’s FAQs page about the mandatory downspout disconnection program.