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Backyards crumbling into the Muskrat River in Pembroke, Ont.

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PEMBROKE, ONT. -

Leigh Costello's backyard has been crumbling away in the Muskrat River in Pembroke, Ont. for years.

Before 2017, Costello says she could not even see the river from her home on Welland Street.

When the flooding in 2017 happened, she says 50 feet of her backyard was washed away, with the problem exacerbated again in 2019. Now Costello says she has a waterfront property.

"We're continuously losing smaller amounts now, but we've lost another couple feet of land because of the fact that the bank and the land is exposed," says Costello, who leads a community group called Pembroke Landslide Victims.

She says her home is one of 100 along Welland Street and Moffat Street in danger of more erosion.

Her next-door neighbour Stacy Simmons says their property has only gotten smaller since moving in at the end of 2017.

"When we first moved in our fence was about two feet back farther and we had about six feet on the other side of the fence," says Simmons. "Then one morning we just woke up and fence was dangling off the edge."

Simmon's backyard now sits on a slope after the earth underneath her property shifted. It has caused cracks in their concrete patio, driveway, and their home's foundation, leading to basement flooding every spring.

"The biggest worry at the end of the day for us is trying to sell our house at any point because we've lost so much of the backyard," says Simmons.

"Every spring our neighbourhood holds their breath that we're not going to have another catastrophic event," adds Costello, saying every heavy rain or snowmelt erodes the bank little by little.

The homeowners have been pushing the city to secure disaster relief funding since 2017, saying a study conducted on the area estimates a cost between $16-and $20 million to secure the cliff.

However, the city says they are at the mercy of the federal and provincial government.

"I am sure that it is going to be very expensive," says Pembroke Mayor Michael LeMay. "Whether it's going to be $16 million I'm not sure but it's a case of that particular type of funding has to come from the federal government with assistance from the province."

LeMay says he recently met with the group of homeowners to reassure them that their worries have not been forgotten, but adds a city the size of Pembroke's can't afford a $16 million mitigation plan.

"If there is no mitigation, if we end up with another massive storm or flood, then we could see some properties disappear," says LeMay.

"Us as individual homeowners, unfortunately, are not able to do this," Costello tells CTV News. "We need the help, we need help."

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