The City of Hamilton says it discovered sewage has been leaking into the Hamilton Harbour for 26 years because of a hole in a combined sewage pipe in the industrial sector.
It’s unclear how much sewage has spilled into the harbour.
But Nick Winters, director of Hamilton Water, told reporters on Tuesday afternoon “it’s going to be a big number,” adding the city will publicly release the number as soon as they have it.
Carlyle Khan, general manager of public works, said Hamilton Water staff noticed something odd on security camera footage. Winters said that led to the discovery of the hole late Tuesday morning at the northeast corner of Wentworth Street North and Burlington Street East..
A preliminary investigation from staff notes they believe a consultant put the hole into the combined sewage pipe in 1996, he said.
“It appears the consultant involved in that work was under the impression all the sewers in that area were storm sewers and they designed a direct connection to a box culvert that leads out to Hamilton Harbour,” Winters said.
“The situation we’re describing to you today is something that shouldn’t have happened.”
What is impacted by the sewage spill?
City staff said the drinking water of Hamilton residents has not been affected by the newly discovered leak, but the spill will have impacted the environment of the harbour.
The outflow ends at a Hamilton Oshawa Port Authority Pier, Winters said.
Some 50 homes are tied into this pipe, but he said the water used by those homes has been going into the lake.
Winters said staff are looking at the amount of water each home uses to find out how much sewage has ended up in the harbour.
He also said the leak should be “significantly less” sewage than the 24 billion litres of sewage that leaked into Chedoke Creek for four years (which the city is still working on cleaning up).
How did the leak go unnoticed for 26 years?
The storm sewer outfall is always under water, so a sewage spill wouldn’t be easy to detect and or sample water from, Winters said.
Sampling from within the sewers itself also isn’t something that generally happens, he said, but the city launched its surface water quality program last year.
What is the city doing about it?
He said staff contacted the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks Spills Action Centre at 12:20 p.m. ET Tuesday and reported it to the city’s spill reporting line.
CBC Hamilton has contacted the ministry for comment and is awaiting a response.
There’s also a vacuum truck at the site as a short-term way to stop the flow of sewage into the environment, according to Winters.
The city said residents in the area can expect to see many trucks and other vehicles nearby as staff work to fix the problem.
Khan also said the city’s auditor office has been notified.
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