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Mayor and City Council issue apology to residents of Hamilton and make 10 consultant reports public

HAMILTON, ON - Last week, the City of Hamilton informed the public about additional details of a combined sewage spill into Chedoke Creek. Today, Mayor Eisenberger and members of City Council are issuing a formal apology to the residents of Hamilton.

“We apologize to the residents of Hamilton for the failure to publicly disclose the volume and duration of the discharge of storm water runoff and sanitary sewage into Chedoke Creek when it first became known to the Council in 2018 and at subsequent Committee and Council meetings.” - Mayor Eisenberger and members of City Council

As well, in an effort to begin rebuilding the public’s trust, Council has directed staff to publicly release several reports related to the discharge. Brief executive summaries of each of these documents are below this media release. The documents are posted on the City’s website.

In addition to publicly sharing these documents, Council requested the following:

  • That staff be directed to compile and release publicly an inventory and summary of all water samples collected and retained by the City of Hamilton, from January 2014 to present
  • That the City seek to reconcile with Indigenous Water Walkers to come into right relations on the concerns raised about waste materials in Hamilton Harbour and Cootes Paradise.
  • That Public Health be directed to immediately identify, assess and report back on:
    • Any health-related incidents associated with exposure to contaminated waterways in the Chedoke Creek and Cootes Paradise;
    • Hospital and clinic data and public health notifications for any unusual illnesses reported since January 2014 that may be the result of bacterial contamination related to the discharge storm water runoff and sanitary sewage into Chedoke Creek and Cootes Paradise;
  • That staff be directed to report back on the governance, collection and reporting model regarding water sample collection;
  • That staff send a copy of this motion to ask the Hamilton Conservation Authority, and the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, to release an inventory and summary of all water samples collected and retained related to Chedoke Creek and Cootes Paradise from January 2014 to present;
  • That Public Works and Communications staff prepare a document that detail the chronology of when the Mayor and members of Council were apprised of the situation at Chedoke Creek and Cootes Paradise and the method of reporting (Committee or Council; type of report (written or verbal) and media releases from July 2018 to present;
  • That staff report back publicly on the environmental impacts of the discharge; and
  • That the City recommit to the water quality objectives in the Remedial Action Plan process.

Council has made a number of significant investments in the wastewater system and is taking steps to improve transparency by implementing access by design policies.

  • On November 4, 2019, the City launched the first phase of an enhanced notification protocol for informing the public about bypasses at the wastewater treatment plant. Phase one includes notifications on the City’s website if there is a bypass at the wastewater treatment plant. Last night, Council also added public notification for the City’s 14 monitored combined sewer overflow outfall locations to phase one of the enhanced protocol. Phase two will launch in spring 2020 and will include automated notifications for bypasses at the treatment plant, and overflows at the City’s 14 monitored combined sewer overflow outfall locations.
  • As part of the 2020 Water, Wastewater and Stormwater Budget, Council added four additional staff to improve the routine physical inspection and preventative maintenance programs for Hamilton Water Infrastructure including water and wastewater treatment plants, pumping stations, and combined sewer overflow tanks; and one Water Quality Technologist to sample and analyze water and wastewater quality.
  • Council has directed staff to develop an Access By Design Policy for the City to support and proactively disclose information and documents. This policy is coming to the Audit, Finance & Administration Committee for review on December 5.
  • Council has directed staff to develop a policy and/or protocol to guarantee sharing of consultant’s reports with Council when there are risks to human health and safety. This policy is coming for review in January.
  • In January, Council will also review a policy and/or protocol to Council for all Federal and Provincial Ministry or Provincial Officer Orders that are received by management or staff. These orders will be shared with City Council and copies displayed in a prominent place on the City website.
  • In the last 30 years, the City built nine combined sewage overflow facilities that can store the equivalent of 125 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of combined sewage during wet weather – these tanks help to protect public and private infrastructure and properties (particularly basements) from sewer backups, surcharges and overflows.
  • The City has been working to implement sensors and information systems that help staff make data-based decisions around directing the flow of wastewater during wet weather. The real time control program allows for the capture of optimal amounts of wastewater within the system to ensure unnecessary discharges during severe weather do not occur.  The Real Time Control program allows staff to monitor various gates, tanks, and other key areas to make real time decisions related to which areas of the system have capacity to hold wastewater prior to discharging into the environment. Phase one of implementing the Real Time Control program began in 2010 and is now complete. Phase two is in the detailed design phase and will be implemented in the coming years.
  • The largest investment of the Clean Harbour program is a multi-phase plan to upgrade the Woodward Wastewater Treatment Plant. Because the plant is the largest single source of water flowing into Hamilton Harbour, the quality of that effluent has a direct and powerful impact on the harbour’s water quality and environmental health. The total budget for the upgrades is $340 million, $200 million of which comes from the provincial and federal governments through the Green Infrastructure Fund. The upgrades include elevating the plant’s final treatment process from the secondary level to the tertiary (third) level. This will allow the plant to reach strict discharge limits described by the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan for phosphorus, ammonia and suspended solids. Sub-projects at the Woodward plant include electrical system upgrades, a new chlorine tank and a new raw sewage pumping station and collection system control to support wet weather and flooding control initiatives
  • The Sewer Lateral Cross-Connection Program was initiated to identify and correct plumbing deficiencies that exist when a property’s sanitary lateral is improperly connected to a storm sewer.  These sewer lateral cross connections are typically present from the time the house is built and left uncorrected, results in sanitary waste discharging directly into the city’s watercourses. To date, the City has identified and corrected over 365 cross-connections.  This translates into more than 65 million litres of wastewater diverted away from the natural environment and into the sewage treatment system each year. 
  • A research study was undertaken as a part of the Clean Harbour Program with respect to floatables found in Hamilton Harbour. The study includes a baseline assessment of the City’s wastewater infrastructure, an evaluation of current performance and identifies best practices and offers recommendations to reduce the presence of floatable materials reaching the harbour.  The study is still ongoing and results will be presented to the Public Works Committee in the first quarter of 2020.

Attached Documents

Executive Summaries

  1. Glen Road Inspection and Monitoring Program; Calder Engineering Ltd. (July 19, 2018) – Calder Engineering was contracted to inspect the twin box channel underneath Main Street and King Street that carries Chedoke Creek under the roadways.  A physical entry was planned and executed to collect information regarding the status of the channel given identified water quality concerns.  This inspection report identifies the activities that took place to find evidence of unintended wastewater flows entering Chedoke Creek.  Observations are made in the report for a number of flow points entering the channel.  This report identifies the presence of wastewater flow entering the enclosed channel.
  2. Quantification of Volume and Contaminant Loadings; Wood / Hatch (September 28, 2018) – Hatch was sub-contracted through Wood Group as a qualified consultant to provide a report estimating the volume and loadings related to the Main & King CSO tank discharge between January 28, 2014 and July 18, 2018.  This report comments on the magnitude of the event based on a modelling exercise, producing the estimated quantity of flow and the estimated tonnage of materials it was carrying into the receiving water environment.  Limitations of the methods used to communicate quantities are outlined in the report.
  3. CSO Facilities Inspection Report; Hatch (October 31, 2018) (AND Addendum November 30, 2018) – In response to the Main & King CSO tank discovery, work was done to assess all of the City’s CSO facilities.  This report was written to confirm that all CSO facilities have been inspected to ensure proper functionality of all critical valves and gates that can lead to a source of environmental discharges.  An inventory of those key assets was also produced.   
  4. Chedoke Creek Natural Environment and Sediment Quality Assessment and Remediation; Wood Environmental & Infrastructure Solutions (January 24, 2019) – Wood provided an assessment of the natural environment and sediment quality of the Chedoke Creek that was impacted by the identified discharge from the Main & King CSO tank.  This work included field activities and looked at several parameters in the Creek both in the surface water and in the sediment in order to determine the potential impact of CSO discharge.  Based on the natural assessment information and site findings, this report also evaluated a number of remediation options and further discussed dredging as a remedial action recommendation. 
  5. Implementation and Costing Report; Wood Environmental & Infrastructure Solutions (January 24, 2019) – This report takes the conclusions from the Natural Environment and Sediment Quality Assessment and Remediation Report by Wood and develops an implementation plan for execution of a dredging operation.  Information identifies high level tasks, approvals, stakeholders, project sequencing, high level order of magnitude cost estimation, estimated timelines and logistical elements to be aware of for implementation of the remediation activities.
  6. CSO Facilities O&M Plan; Hatch (January 31, 2019) – This report uses information developed as part of the CSO Facilities Inspection Report by Hatch to review and update drawings, Process Control Narratives as well as develop Operation and Maintenance Plans for all City CSO facilities that contain critical equipment identified in the previously generated inventory.  This report builds upon information developed in the CSO Facility Assessment released October and November 2018.  Updated Standard Operating Procedures and Process Control Narratives were produced in parallel with this report to improve operating documentation used by staff. 
  7. Peer Review – Chedoke Creek Natural Environment and Sediment Quality Assessment and Remediation; SLR Consulting (Canada) Ltd. – Summary Report (May 15, 2019); AND Full Report (February 25, 2019) – This report is directly connected to the Natural Environment and Sediment Quality Assessment and Remediation Report by Wood and summarizes the more technical report. SLR was contracted to confirm the appropriateness and completeness of the Environmental Report that was produced under tight timelines for January 2019.  This work was focused on ensuring that the process was robust enough to arrive at defendable recommendations for moving forward.  Work included the following:

    Validate methodology including an independent review of previous work completed by Wood.

    Provide an opinion of the appropriateness and completeness of the conclusions made regarding impacts and recommendations.

    Peer review of conclusions identify some gaps in the study, mainly as a result of time constraints, that would be beneficial in confirming remediation recommendations. Work is currently progressing on a follow-up report which explores how these gaps could be filled.
  8. Wood response to the SLR Peer Review Report; Wood (May 23, 2019) – In this report the consultant Wood was provided with an opportunity to provide their perspective of the Peer review done by SLR related to the Natural Environment and Sediment Quality Assessment and Remediation Report. They reference the constraints and context that defined the nature of their report including tight timelines and boundaries of the established scope of work.  A number of comments were provided by Wood to provide the context for their work and conclusions.