City completes $80m harbour cleanup
After decades of contamination, Hamilton’s harbour is making strides toward being removed from the list of the country’s most polluted hot spots.
MP and federal Environment Minister Peter Kent, along with Ontario Rural Affairs Minister Jeff Leal and Mayor Bob Bratina announced on Wednesday that three major projects — upgrades to the Dundas wastewater treatment plant, new sewer overflow systems at the Woodward Avenue wastewater treatment plant and the remediation of the Windermere Basin — have been completed.
Full funding for the remediation of Randle Reef was put in place in December, and the completion of the work marks a huge step forward in the push to delist the harbour as an area of concern.
“The last time there was something this big, this significant, in this part of Hamilton that had to do with the water was back in 1860, when the Prince of Wales came and opened the waterworks plant. That was a huge achievement that led to an amazing community that grew up because it had fresh water,” said Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan (RAP) co-ordinator John Hall.
“But as we know, we polluted that water. That was part of what happened in the past. We’ve now turned things around, and are coming a huge distance. We’re almost there.”
The city has been working for years to turn Windermere Basin, the long-polluted sediment trap where Red Hill Creek meets the east harbour, into a wetland bird sanctuary.
Workers dumped more than 20,000 truckloads of clay into the basin to cap polluted sediment that has built up over decades of industrial and sewage abuse.
The area has also been cut off from the still-polluted Red Hill Creek with berms and a gate to keep out carp. The city then pumped water back into the wetland.
One major hurdle left in terms of harbour cleanup is upgrading the outdated Woodward Avenue wastewater treatment plant. Both the federal government and the province had pledged $100 million toward the $770-million project, seen as a critical component of the city’s plans to clean the harbour and meet its development targets.
However, because the city’s water consumption has fallen and growth hasn’t taken hold as quickly as expected, the city has scaled back both the scope and timeline of the Woodward upgrade.
While the provincial government has agreed to maintain its $100-million commitment, the federal government has yet to follow suit.
Kent says while he can’t yet confirm anything, he expects the federal government will recommit that funding.
“I would think that it’s just a matter of time,” he said. “Hamilton really is a model for a lot of other Canadian cities that haven’t been as diligent in their stewardship of clean water.”
The three projects announced Wednesday cost $80 million: $2.4 million to upgrade the Dundas wastewater treatment plant to ensure contaminants aren’t carried into the harbour; $57 million for new overflow systems at the Woodward wastewater plant that will help divert sewage during wet weather, and $20.6 million for the Windermere remediation.
The federal government contributed $35 million, the province paid $15 million, and the city covered the remaining $30 million.