Mayor Horwath calls for investigation after sewage leaks into Hamilton Harbour undetected for 26 years


Published November 23, 2022 at 10:34 am

Sewage leaks into Hamilton Harbour undetected for nearly 3 decades; Mayor Horwath calls investigation

Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath is calling for an investigation after city staff discovered a pipe has been dumping sewage into the local harbour undetected for 26 years.

Horwath, whose recent mayoral campaign focused on public transparency after the Chedoke Creek controversy, says she has asked the city auditor to be brought in after a preliminary investigation of the pipe leak uncovered Tuesday morning suggests a contractor put it there in 1996.

“At approximately 4:00 p.m. today, I was notified of a sewage spill into Hamilton Harbour in the area of Burlington Street and Wentworth Street that appears to have started in 1996,” she said in an official statement. “In line with my commitment to transparency, I asked that this information be made public immediately.”

Sewage leaks into Hamilton Harbour undetected for nearly 3 decades; Mayor Horwath calls investigation

The Burlington Bay James N. Allan Skyway bridges the waters of Hamilton Harbour

Horwath says she’s been assured the risk to human health is “very low,” but she raised concerns about the spill’s environmental impacts. The city says once its assessment is finished, it will publicly report how much sewage the pipe has dumped.

“I am concerned about the environmental impacts of this spill, and while we are not yet aware of the total volume of sewage released, I have been informed that it was substantial,” she added.

“I also asked that the City Auditor be brought in to investigate how a spill of this nature could go on for more than 20 years without being detected. I expect that when that report is completed, it will be publicly released.”

The city says the combined sewer pipe services about 50 properties, which have been flushing directly into the Hamilton Harbour. A map outlining all of the properties that are connected to the combined sewer that was spilling into the storm sewer was sent to the media around 3 p.m. on Wednesday.

City staff were doing separate maintenance work on Tuesday when they found the hole in a stretch of pipe near Burlington St. and Wentworth St. North. A photo provided by the city shows  combined sewer with noticeable flow dropping out and into the storm sewer.

In a statement, the city says it believes a contractor made the hole under the impression that “all pipes were storm sewers” designed to connect to the culverts spilling into the harbour.

–with files from The Canadian Press

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