Burlington mayor chimes in on massive sewage spill in Chedoke Creek

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November 26, 2019 at 9:33 pm

Burlington mayor, Marianne Meed Ward, issued a statement Tuesday in response to the spill of billions of litres of sewage in Hamilton that was kept under wraps by Hamilton city staff since its

Burlington mayor, Marianne Meed Ward, issued a statement Tuesday in response to the spill of billions of litres of sewage in Hamilton that was kept under wraps by Hamilton city staff since its discovery.

“Like residents of Burlington, Hamilton and neighbouring municipalities, I am shocked and disturbed to hear of the massive sewage spill into the Cootes Paradise watershed,” Meed Ward said.

“Like many, we are left asking how such a thing could have happened over such a long period of time, what the impact is to the environment and our residents, and why the public and partnering municipalities and agencies were not notified.”

She went on to say that she will be seeking answers to questions about how this all happened, what have been the environmental and public health impacts of the spill, as well as how to move forward with a plan in place to ensure everyone who is impacted is informed immediately.

“We are aware that the Ministry of Environment, Conservation & Parks is investigating, and we look forward to a full understanding and public reporting of what occurred,” she said.

“[If proper public policies for reporting] were in place, Burlington and agencies with a role and stake in Cootes Paradise would have been immediately notified of the spill, along with the public. We should not have to learn about contamination of our shared water from media reports.”

Hamilton’s mayor finally spoke out about the spill.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger appeared on Global News Radio 900 CHML’s Bill Kelly show Tuesday (Nov. 26) morning and faced off against an angry Kelly who likened the scandal to the ‘Trump White House.’

Last week, the city revealed in a release that approximately 24 billion litres of stormwater runoff and sewage was discharged into Chedoke Creek in West Hamilton over a span of more than four years.

“Investigations have determined that the spill was a result of a bypass gate in the combined sewer overflow tank that should have been in a closed position, but was opened to approximately five per cent on January 28, 2014,” the city says in the release.

“Despite extensive investigations, the City has not been able to determine why the bypass gate was opened.”

The leak was discovered in June 2018, and since then the gate has been closed and the city has taken up remediation efforts.

But in the immediate aftermath, the Hamilton Spectator revealed that the city knew about both the volume and length of the leak back in January, but elected not to inform the public.

In response to a question posed by Kelly on this decision, Eisenberger responded that “the damage had already been done….there was deemed to be no public health issue as the gate was closed. If there had been, it would’ve been fully disclosed.”

“It smacks of a coverup, Mr. Mayor,” Kelly said.

Kelly compared this situation to that of the Red Hill Valley Expressway coverup earlier this year and noted that there seems to be a concerning pattern in how the current city council communicates with Hamiltonians.

Eisenberger opted not to speak to the Red Hill issue as it’s currently under investigation but said that environmental lawyers advised that the city keep things quiet until the results of a Ministry of Environment investigation were made available.

The scandal has even spilled over into neighbouring municipalities. In fact, The Royal Botanical Gardens, who presides over a portion of the impacted waterway, were kept in the dark about the spill.

On Monday, Hamilton councillors voted to hire five people to physically inspect the city’s wastewater system.

The new roles would include four full-time staff to carry out “enhanced inspections” of Hamilton’s massive system and one person who would sample water quality at a cost of just under $500,000.

The motion was introduced by councillor Tom Jackson at Monday’s General Issues Committee meeting.

After committee members voted unanimously to create the new roles, the discussion turned to who was responsible for the information leak.

The seemingly tone-deaf search for the ‘whistleblower, has many questioning the city’s sense of responsibility.

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