The City of Hamilton is looking to address the water quality of all of the city’s watercourses on a full-time basis.
Despite a report on the Chedoke Creek sewage spill that recommends no remediation of the watercourse is required, Hamilton is looking to hire an expert that will devise a more formal approach to protecting water quality across the city.
The report was in front of City Council at their Wednesday (April 29) virtual meeting.
In late November 2019 the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) ordered an Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE) of Chedoke Creek and Coote’s Paradise, after the discharge of approximately 24-billion litres of stormwater runoff and sewage over four years was discovered last fall.
The EIE report, authored by SLR Consulting, ultimately concluded that “overall, the data reviewed indicated that impacts from the CSO (Combined Sewer Overflow) discharge were limited to short-term and localized impacts on surface water quality only.”
And it also concluded that “there is no evidence of long-term impact on Cootes Paradise based on water quality measurements.”
Therefore, the report finds that “remediation is not required to address impacts from the Main/King CSO discharge that occurred from 2014 to 2018, and the ‘no action’ alternative is recommended.”
The SLR report noted that many of its conclusions were based on the analysis of historical data and “limited data sets.”
Ward 3 Councillor Nrinder Nann noted that she found that somewhat concerning.
“How can we do a fulsome analysis if the data sets are limited?” she questioned.
A representative from SLR explained that with the historical data available to them — which went as far back as the mid-1990s — provided by a number of sources, including the RBG, they were able to “piece together a pretty decent story.”
He said even given those limitations, he is still confident “the conclusions are quite firm.”
Andrew Grice, the Director of Hamilton Water Public Works Department, added that given the time constraints they were working under to respond to the MECP’s orders, they weren’t able to develop a more formal sampling protocol.
This report will be sent to the MECP by the end of the week to be taken into consideration.
Dan McKinnon, General Manager of Hamilton Public Works, said the MECP will then evaluate the report and its findings and could potentially come back with recommendations to undertake remediation efforts anyways.
In the meantime, a City of Hamilton staff report summarizing SLR’s findings noted that the city is currently in the process of hiring a Water Quality Technologist.
Grice, the author of the staff report, told councillors that “we are currently in the middle of our recruitment process.”
He explained that whoever fills the role will be helping to develop a “higher level” water quality program that will monitor all of Hamilton’s watercourses that receive discharges from municipal infrastructure.
“We want to develop a premium level program to ensure water quality of all our watercourses,” McKinnon added. “[Our priority] is to ensure our infrastructure is performing well and we’re protecting our water quality.”
This process, it appears, was already underway even before the Chedoke Creek spill was discovered.
Over the years, Grice noted, the city has undertaken efforts to mitigate the impacts of stormwater and infrastructure runoff on the urban watercourse around Hamilton with the installation of CSO tanks (of which, the city has built seven since the 1980s).
According to the City’s website, these tanks prevent untreated wastewater from going directly into the “22 local receiving waters in and around Hamilton including Hamilton Harbour.”
Grice confirmed that before the installation of the tanks, everything would have made its way to Hamilton’s watercourses.
Therefore, Grice noted that prior to the Chedoke Creek spill, “the water quality to start with was not pristine.”
Ward 9 Councillor Brad Clark said the decision to pursue a full-time Water Quality Technologist and develop a strategy to address the water quality of the city’s watercourses and watersheds is “one positive step to come out of a horrible situation.”
The process to hire a water quality specialist has undoubtedly been slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but McKinnon seemed confident that in the coming months the role would be filled and noted that efforts were already underway to consult local stakeholders to improve the governance of Hamilton’s urban waterways.