Environment Minister says Hamilton must audit all sewage infrastructure after second sewage leak


Ontario’s environment minister says he ordered Hamilton to check its entire sewage infrastructure after the city revealed it had just discovered sewage leaking into the harbor for 26 years.

“This is absolutely unacceptable,” David Piccini said at Queen’s Park, answering questions from Donna Skelly, the Progressive Conservative MP for Flamborough—Glanbrook.

“I was angry for people hearing yet again how their city and lack of oversight has failed to protect their waters.”

The city has 2,100 kilometers of sewer lines.

Piccini also said the city will need to create a remediation plan to address damage to Hamilton Harbor, which is part of Lake Ontario.

CBC Hamilton has contacted the department for further comment, but city spokesman Norm Miller said the Department of the Environment has yet to issue a formal order.

Skelly said the city needs answers and action.

“Serious issues with water infrastructure and environmental safety standards should never take more than two decades to resolve,” she said.

The flow of sewage in the port stopped overnight

The city made the announcement Tuesday afternoon, saying a consultant drilled the hole in the combined sewer pipe in 1996, believing all sewers were storm sewers connected to a culvert that led into the harbor.

It turns out that 39 houses are connected to this pipe, which means that their sewage was flowing into the water.

The next day, Nick Winters, director of Hamilton Water, said an incorrect illustration had been given to contractors which led to a combined sewer pipe being punctured in 1996.

It’s still unclear exactly how much sewage poured into the lake and how much damage it caused, but Tys Theijsmeijer, natural lands manager at the Royal Botanic Gardens, said there wasn’t much wildlife near the harbor because of all the industry in the area. .

City of Hamilton discovers 26-year-old sewage leak in Hamilton Harbor

The City of Hamilton says it has discovered sewage flowing into Hamilton Harbor since 1996 due to a hole in a combined industrial sewer line.

City spokesman Norm Miller said in a news release Thursday that the flow of sewage into the port stopped overnight after workers completed repairs and realignment.

Work to stop the flow this week cost $29,830 according to Miller. Another $3,000 will be spent to repair the road.

It is still unclear exactly how much sewage flowed into the lake and how much damage it caused.

City hosts General Matters Committee budget meeting that includes water, wastewater and stormwater rate budget presentation, with city staff calling for combined rate increase of 6.49 % in 2023.

RBG expects at least one more sewage leak

Tys Theijsmeijer, natural lands manager at the Royal Botanical Gardens, said he was disappointed to hear of the leak, but happy that a process was in place and everyone seemed to be taking immediate action.

Theijsmeijer said the leak boiled down to the difference between a new type of sewage system and an old type of sewage system.

The new type of system separates wastewater and runoff water.

Most of Hamilton consists of the older type, a combined sewer system.

“If someone assumed it was the new type of sewage system in this place, maybe that means that several more places like this will be discovered in a review,” Theijsmeijer said.

“Based on the water quality monitoring that the city currently does quite intensively, that wouldn’t be a surprise at all. There must be at least one more somewhere, maybe more that.”

People wearing hard hats and safety vests stand around a hole in the road as a machine drives a tube through it.
Repair work on the 26-year-old sewage spill in Hamilton Harbor began on Tuesday. (Aicha Smith-Belghaba/CBC)

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