Hamilton Clean Harbour Program
The Hard Work of Restoring the Harbour
Restoring Hamilton Harbour’s health and natural heritage is a big, multifaceted job. Since the inauguration of the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan (HHRAP) 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.
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.
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 2010, 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 evaluated “upstream” water quality issues including sediment control on construction sites and both urban and rural runoff. The work of this group had 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
- 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.
The Clean Harbour program’s large-scale projects 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.
- 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.
 HHRAP is a list of actions designed to restore the harbour to good health and have it “delisted” as an area of concern (AOC)
 The water - the output - produced by the plant following treatment
Investing in Our Health and Environment
The Clean Harbour program is one of the City of Hamilton’s largest and widest-reaching investments of the last two decades. The more than $530 million committed to Clean Harbour projects supports environmental improvements and corresponding benefits for the community. Enhanced wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, for example, improves water quality in Hamilton Harbour which leads to safer fishing, safer swimming and better experiences on and near the water. Investments in natural habitat restoration create opportunities for recreation and make Hamilton a more attractive site for new businesses. These are important investments made by the City of Hamilton with the support of other funders, often the Province of Ontario and Government of Canada.
- Woodward Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrades: $340 million
- Largest project of the Clean Harbour program
- Funding through the Green Infrastructure Fund, an agreement between municipal, provincial and federal governments
- Randle Reef Sediment Remediation Project: $138.9 million
- Project led by Environment and Climate Change Canada with seven funding partners contributing
- City of Hamilton contributing $14 million
- Windermere Basin Project: $20.5 million
- Funding partnership with City of Hamilton, Province of Ontario and Government of Canada
- Dundas Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrades: $20 million
- Funded under the City of Hamilton’s water and wastewater budget
- Real-Time Control System: $10 million
- $25-35 million in potential projects identified in initial plan
- Significant portion of funding from Infrastructure Canada’s Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund
A Community of Stakeholders
From the earliest days of the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan, the Hamilton community has recognized that the only way to achieve the goals of the plan was to work together, with governments, corporations, institutions, community organizations and private citizens each playing an important role in creating and sustaining a healthy harbour. This stakeholder approach has been the strength of the HHRAP and a key feature of the City of Hamilton’s work through the Clean Harbour program. With City Council taking the lead by making historic investments in the water and wastewater infrastructure that supports all the other harbour restoration efforts, dozens of community stakeholders have taken on important roles in returning the harbour to ecological health.
Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan (HHRAP)
The Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan identifies key impediments to the ecological health of the harbour and details the path to achieving the delisting of the harbour as an area of concern (AOC). The plan addresses water quality, fish and wildlife, and toxic substances and sediment remediation. All stages of the plan involve detailed monitoring and reporting in order to meet water quality targets, standards for fish and wildlife health, milestones for habitat creation/protection and other factors.
According to the HHRAP, the most significant component of cleaning up Hamilton Harbour is the reduction of pollution coming from combined sewer overflows and treated wastewater which is why the work of the Clean Harbour program on upgrades to the Woodward Wastewater Treatment Plant and the construction of combined sewer overflow (CSO) tanks is so vital to the success of the HHRAP.
The HHRAP office plays an important coordination and information-sharing role with all stakeholders. Learn more about the HHRAP.
Bay Area Restoration Council (BARC)
The Bay Area Restoration Council is a non-profit community organization that serves as the public face and advocate of the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan. BARC is responsible for engaging the public in the HHRAP, for helping provide the information and education that is a necessary part of securing public support for the HHRAP and for advocating on behalf of the HHRAP with governments, organizations and the public.
Since its founding in 1991, BARC has run successful volunteer and public programs with an emphasis on school programs, volunteer planting events, community workshops, evaluative reporting on current issues and opportunities for online engagement.
Visit the BARC website.
Bay Area Implementation Team (BAIT)
19 different organizations – representing the corporate sector, local institutions, non-profit organizations and four levels of government – constitute the Bay Area Implementation Team. The BAIT partners provide the strategic direction, industry/sector expertise, resources and operational capacity required to deliver both the short-term and long-term projects required to delist Hamilton Harbour as an area of environmental concern. BAIT works on a consensus-based process to deliver the remedial action plan for Hamilton Harbour.
Strength in Partnership
The people and organizations working to protect and restore Hamilton Harbour bring a diverse and powerful set of perspectives, skills and abilities to the task. Beyond the members of the Bay Area Implementation Team (BAIT), a number of community partners make important contributions to restoring the harbour.
- The Six Nations community and the City of Hamilton work closely together on the Joint Stewardship Board to preserve Haudenosaunee interests and incorporate First Nations’ perspectives into the environmental management strategies for the Red Hill Valley that is such an important part of the Hamilton Harbour watershed.
- The Stewards of Cootes Watershed is a neighbourhood-based, grassroots organization that educates local communities and citizens about the importance of environmental health and biodiversity while also providing hands-on opportunities for volunteers to help protect and restore the Cootes Paradise marsh and the creeks that connect to it.
- Environment Hamilton has a diverse mission of education, advocacy and action related to issues such as food security, sustainable transportation, clean air and healthy water. The organization has a strong track record of identifying and raising awareness of key issues related to the health and sustainability of Hamilton Harbour and its watershed.