The Clean Harbour Program

Hamilton Clean Harbour Program

The Hard Work of Restoring the Harbour
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Restoring Hamilton Harbour’s health and natural heritage is a big, multifaceted job. Since the inauguration of the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan (HHRAP)[1] in 1992, community stakeholders have accomplished a great deal of the work described by the plan - more than half, in fact - and the City of Hamilton and City Council are leading the way.

Council has made the kinds of leadership investments that serve as magnets for support from other organizations and governments.  Local advocates and activists have provided insight and grassroots leadership. Non-profit organizations have engaged the public in restoration work. Corporate and industrial stakeholders have adopted greener practices and invested in local programs. Conservation organizations including the Royal Botanical Gardens and the conservation authorities of Hamilton and Halton have protected ecosystems and restored natural habitat. Local residents have volunteered and made better environmental decisions at home.


Map: Clean Harbour Program projects

The largest and many of the most impactful investments in the HHRAP have been the result of forward-looking decisions by Hamilton City Council. Hamilton’s Clean Harbour program is the conduit for most of those investments. The program enhances water quality and natural habitat in the harbour by delivering new or improved infrastructure projects, often through funding partnerships that involve all three levels of government. With the goal of returning the harbour to a healthy environmental state while also providing excellent value for taxpayers, the Clean Harbour program acts directly on the requirements of the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan. The program’s projects also enhance municipal services to local residents and businesses by, for example, reducing flood risk, helping to secure drinking water quality and creating new public spaces.

Completed Projects
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The City of Hamilton has made a number of important contributions to the HHRAP since 1992. These include:

  • Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Tank Program: CSO tanks capture untreated sanitary and storm sewage during storms, releasing it back into the sewer system only when wastewater treatment plants have the capacity to handle it properly.  Between 1989 and 2015, the City built nine CSO facilities with total storage space equivalent to 125 Olympic-size swimming pools. More information about the Combined Sewer Overflow Storage Strategy
  • Increased Public Access: At the beginning of the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan in 1992, only 5% of the harbour’s shoreline was accessible to the public. Today, the HHRAP target has been exceeded and 28% of the shore is accessible, thanks in large part to the development of Pier 4 Park and Bayfront Park in the West Harbour. More information about the Bayfront Park, Pier 4 Park & Waterfront Trail Project
  • Restoration of Cootes Paradise Marsh: Led by the Royal Botanical Gardens, a number of stakeholders have contributed to restoration projects in Cootes Paradise, including building the carp-exclusion Fishway at the Desjardins Canal, replanting native species and, through the Clean Harbour program, improving effluent into the marsh. More information about the Cootes Paradise Marsh Project
  • Beach and Park Revitalization Project: The City has rebuilt harbour beaches and stretches of shoreline to create and enrich bird and fish habitat, increase public access and enjoyment and mitigate the effects of water contaminants such as E. coli. More information about the Beach and Park Revitalization Project
  • Watershed Nutrient and Sediment Management Group: This group addresses “upstream” water quality issues including sediment control on construction sites and both urban and rural runoff.  The work of this group has a significant impact on the success of other Clean Harbour projects such as wastewater treatment upgrades and natural habitat restoration. More information about the Watershed Nutrient and Sediment Management Group
  • Decommissioning the Waterdown Wastewater Treatment Plant: After determining that replacing the Waterdown Wastewater Treatment Plant with a pumping station would reduce environmental impacts and save money, work began in 2007 on a project that will conclude with Waterdown’s wastewater being processed at the Dundas treatment plant. More about the Waterdown Wastewater Treatment Plant Decommissioning Project

Current Projects
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The Clean Harbour program’s six active, large-scale projects will all influence harbour water quality, help protect natural habitat and enhance the harbour experience for local residents and visitors. Each project also brings the community - by steps small and large - closer to delisting Hamilton Harbour as an area of concern.

  • Woodward Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrades:Adding proven water treatment technology and greater capacity to Hamilton’s highest-volume wastewater treatment plant is the largest single investment in the Clean Harbour program.  The estimated $340 million of plant upgrades will have massive implications for water quality in the harbour. More about the Woodward Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrades.
  • Randle Reef Sediment Remediation Project:Working closely with a consortium of funding partners under the leadership of Environment and Climate Change Canada, the City of Hamilton is playing a key role in funding and building the engineered containment facility (ECF) that will isolate Canada’s worst toxic sediment deposit from the environment. More about the Randle Reed Sediment Remediation Project.
  • Dundas Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrades:The capital upgrade plan will allow the Dundas Wastewater Treatment Plant to achieve better and more stable effluent quality, which will minimize the impact of wastewater on the fragile and ecologically significant West Marsh area of Cootes Paradise.  Hamilton Water is also enhancing plant operations and technology to further reduce contaminants such as phosphorus in the plant’s effluent.[2] More about the Dundas Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrades.
  • Windermere Basin Project:The restoration of Windermere Basin is one of Hamilton’s least-known triumphs.  The project is creating a healthy and diverse Great Lakes coastal wetland out of a section of industrial waterfront in an area still dominated by industrial uses.  More about the Windermere Basin Project.
  • Real-Time Control System: Building new and upgraded sewage flow controls gives Hamilton Water more precise and timely control of the City’s wastewater system, thus providing greater security to people and property during storms while also protecting the harbour from contaminated runoff during “wet weather events.”  More about the Real-Time Control System.
  • Sewer Lateral Cross-Connection Control Project: Like many urban areas, Hamilton has a legacy of buried, cross-connected sewer pipes that mistakenly link sewage outputs to the storm sewer system where water flows untreated into the harbour.  Correcting these cross connections sends dirty water to wastewater treatment plants where it belongs. More about the Sewer Lateral Cross-Connection Control Project.

[1] HHRAP is a list of actions designed to restore the harbour to good health and have it “delisted” as an area of concern (AOC)
[2] The water - the output - produced by the plant following treatment