How did Hamilton Harbour get to the point where it needs to be cleaned up?
A variety of historic and contemporary factors have contributed to the harbour’s environmental degradation. Commercial activities such as industry and shipping have consumed natural habitat and generated pollution. Invasive species, most notably carp in Cootes Paradise, have caused damage and shifts in ecosystems. Commonplace household waste has played a large role, both through less-than-optimal wastewater processing and direct discharges into the harbour. Rainwater and storm water runoffs carry various contaminants into the harbour and the dumping of chemicals, paints, solvents and other harmful materials into the storm sewer system is also an issue. This is just a partial list, which is why the projects, processes and behavioural changes required to clean up Hamilton Harbour are so numerous and often complex.
What is the Clean Harbour program?
The Clean Harbour Program is a series of large-scale infrastructure projects that is helping to clean up Hamilton Harbour, improve water quality in the harbour, restore natural habitat, create more recreational opportunities for residents, enhance economic development and contribute to better public health. The City of Hamilton leads the Clean Harbour program, though individual projects often involve multiple partners including the provincial and federal governments and local organizations, institutions and corporations.
How much will the Clean Harbour program cost?
The Clean Harbour program has involved more than $530 million in total budget commitments over a period of nearly three decades. The largest projects by budget are the $340 million in upgrades to the Woodward Wastewater Treatment Plant, the $138.9 million Randle Reef engineered containment facility and the $89 million invested in the construction of nine different combined sewer overflow tanks. In almost every Clean Harbour program project, the City of Hamilton is one of multiple funders. For example, the City’s contribution to the Randle Reef project is $14 million.
How long will it take to clean up the harbour?
The work that needs to be done to clean up the harbour is complex and multifaceted and, as with any work that involves the natural environment, often unpredictable. The target date in the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan for delisting the harbour as an area of concern is 2020, but the timelines on some projects – Randle Reef, for example – extend beyond that. It is clear, however, that the City of Hamilton and the other key stakeholders are committed to moving forward and doing the right work in the right way.
How can I contribute to a cleaner, healthier Hamilton Harbour?
The projects that make up the Clean Harbour program are vital to the process of making a healthy Hamilton Harbour, but so are the contributions of individual Hamiltonians. First and foremost, any decisions you make that conserve and use water wisely are important. Minimizing the water you use on everyday activities such as washing dishes, washing your car or caring for your garden and lawn contributes to the health of the harbour. Installing rain barrels, low-flush toilets, low-pressure shower heads and other water-saving devices can not only help the harbour, but save you money as well. It’s also important to understand the negative impacts of decisions including using fertilizers, dumping toxic substances and building impervious surfaces including driveways and many patios. Remember that everything that you flush, rinse or wash away is headed for the harbour.
You can also talk to your family, friends, neighbours and colleagues about the importance of water issues and the projects that make up the Clean Harbour program.
If you want to contribute to the cause as a volunteer, organizations such as the Bay Area Restoration Council, Green Venture and the Royal Botanical Gardens may have opportunities that fit your skills and interests.
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