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Environment minister says Hamilton must audit entire sewage infrastructure after 2nd sewage leak

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Ontario’s minister of the environment said he’s ordered Hamilton to audit its entire sewage infrastructure after the city revealed it just discovered sewage has been leaking into the harborfront for the past 26 years.

“This is absolutely unacceptable,” David Piccini told Queen’s Park while answering questions from Donna Skelly, the Progressive Conservative member of provincial parliament for Flamborough—Glanbrook.

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

The city has 2,100 kilometers worth of sewer pipes.

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

CBC Hamilton has contacted the ministry for further comment, but city spokesperson Norm Miller said the ministry of environment has not issued an official order yet.

Skelly said the city needs answers and action.

“Serious problems related to water infrastructure and environmental safety standards should never take over two decades to be addressed,” she said.

Flow of sewage into harbor stopped overnight

The city made the announcement on Tuesday afternoon, saying a consultant put the hole into the combined sewage pipe in 1996, thinking all the sewers were storm sewers connected to a box culvert that led out into the harbor.

It turns out 39 homes are connected to that pipe, meaning their sewage was draining out into the water.

The next day, Nick Winters, director of Hamilton Water, said an incorrect illustration was given to contractors, which led to a hole being made into a combined sewage pipe in 1996.

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

City of Hamilton discovers 26-year leak of sewage into Hamilton Harbour

The city of Hamilton says it has discovered sewage has been leaking into the Hamilton Harbor since 1996 because of a hole in a combined sewage pipe in the industrial sector.

City spokesperson Norm Miller said in a news release on Thursday that the flow of sewage into the harbor stopped overnight after workers finished repairs and realignment.

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

The city has a general issues committee budget meeting which includes a presentation about the water, wastewater and stormwater rate budget, with city staff calling for a combined 6.49 per cent rate increase in 2023.

RBG expects at least one other sewage leak

Tys Theijsmeijer, head of natural lands at Royal Botanical Gardens, said he’s disappointed to hear about the leak but happy there’s a process in place and everyone seems to be taking immediate action.

Theijsmeijer said the leak comes down to the difference between a new kind of sewer system and an old kind of sewer system.

The newer kind of system separates sewage and surface run-off.

Most of Hamilton consists of the older kind, a combined sewage system.

“If someone made the assumption it was the newer kind of sewage system in this spot, perhaps it means several other spots like this will be found out there in a review,” Theijsmeijer said.

“Based on water-quality monitoring that the city is now doing quite intently, it would not at all be a surprise. There’s got to be at least one more somewhere out there, maybe more than that.”

People wearing hard hats and safety vests stand around a hole in the road while a machine sticks a tube into it.
Work to fix the 26-year-old sewage spill into the Hamilton Harbor started on Tuesday. (Aicha Smith-Belghaba/CBC)

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