City of Hamilton says 59 million more liters of wastewater flowed into Lake Ontario

City of Hamilton says 59 million more liters of wastewater flowed into Lake Ontario

The City of Hamilton says roughly 59 million liters of sewage had flowed from 11 homes near Rutherford Avenue and Myrtle Avenue straight into Lake Ontario since 1996.

“City staff developed this estimate based on the water meter usage data from the 11 properties connected to the combined sewer pipe,” reads a release, which adds this method was identified as the most accurate way to represent the discharge.

The city confirmed the sewage leak on Monday during a risk-based proactive inspection program, prompted by a separate, 337-million-liter sewage spill discovered in late November.

The city said it spent $37,529 to stop the flow of sewage from Rutherford and Myrtle on Wednesday.

A man standing
Ontario Environment Minister David Piccini says it’s been ‘really refreshing’ to see Hamilton’s openness about the city’s sewage spill problem. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

On Thursday, Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks told reporters that Hamilton’s latest sewage spill is “unacceptable,” but also praised the city’s openness.

“I’ve got to say it’s been really refreshing. We haven’t necessarily seen that sort of transparency in the past here in the municipality and this mayor [Andrea Horwath] has been an absolute delight to work with, very transparent,” Environment Minister David Piccini said.

Horwath said she has a “great relationship” with Piccini and he is committed to solving the city’s challenges.

The city is waiting for the province to issue an order to clean up both recent spills.

Unclear if Ford will offer funds to help cleanup

Horwath didn’t say if there will be any funding from the province to help pay to clean up the sewage spills.

Nick Winters, director of Hamilton Water, has said his team will likely find more leaks like this as they continue proactive inspections throughout the old sewage system.

He said the leaks are caused by Hamilton’s combined sewer system and has also said other older municipalities likely have leaks like the two recent spills found in Hamilton.

A vacuum truck has a tube going straight into a maintenance hole in the road.
A vacuum truck was stationed at the corner of Rutherford Avenue and Myrtle Avenue to stop sewage from flowing straight into Lake Ontario. The 27-year flow of sewage stopped Wednesday, according to the city. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Ontario Premier Doug Ford didn’t directly answer a question Thursday about whether the province would give money to municipalities that find sewage leaks.

“When there’s big issues, we’ll always be there to support them one way or another,” he said.

Councillor pushing for storm-water fee

Ward 8 count. John-Paul Danko said on Twitter he plans to present a motion for staff to create a report on what’s required to implement a dedicated user fee for storm-water services, with an implementation date no later than January 2025.

Right now, households pay for rising storm-water management costs primarily through water bills, which means they’re paying based on how much tap water they use.

“That really makes no sense because the amount of storm-water impact a property has nothing to do with tap-water use,” he told CBC Hamilton in a phone interview on Friday.

If introduced, the new fee would see property owners pay based on the amount of hard surface area on a property.

He said average residential taxpayers shouldn’t see an increase in what they pay and some may actually see a decrease.

“Where that has a big change is for large properties that have large impervious surfaces like parking lots and commercial plazas,” he said.

“They would end up paying more for the amount of storm water they end up putting into the system.”

Danko said that while some businesses or institutions may argue against the fee, it’s clear something has to change given the recent sewage leaks.

“There’s an understanding right now of how important it is we make the repairs that are necessary,” he said.

Danko said he plans to present the motion on Jan. 18.

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