City of Hamilton given 1-year extension to clean Chedoke Creek after sewage leak

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Published December 22, 2022 at 11:34 am

hamilton chedoke creek sewage #sewergate andrea horwath indigenous cootes paradise
With the deadline for the City of Hamilton to remediate Chedoke Creek looming, the city has been granted a one-year extension.

With the provincially mandated deadline for the City of Hamilton to complete remediation work at Chedoke Creek looming, the city announced Thursday that they have been granted a one-year extension.

Referred to on social media as #sewergate, the remediation comes after a bypass gate in the combined sewer overflow tank was left about 5 per cent open for four-and-a-half years, causing 24 billion litres of stormwater runoff and raw sewage to pour into Chedoke Creek and Cootes Paradise.

In 2019, a whistleblower leaked the information to the Hamilton Spectator, forcing the city to acknowledge what had happened.

The City of Hamilton was fined by the environment ministry and ordered to clean it up by Dec. 31, 2022.

Now, the city has until the same date next year due to stalled negotiations with Indigenous groups.

In an email sent Thursday, city staff said it’s “committed to performing the work and will look to restart the project in the spring.”

“Completing this important environmental project to restore Chedoke Creek from the damage caused by the combined sewer overflow leak is a top priority,” issued Mayor Andrea Horwath, who was not in municipal office during the discovery of this sewage leak but rather a newly discovered one, and campaigned on the promise of transparency leading up to the fall election.

“The community rightfully wants this work done as soon as possible, and I will continue to work with City staff and stakeholders until a successful restoration is accomplished.”

hamilton chedoke creek sewage #sewergate andrea horwath indigenous cootes paradise

24 billion litres of stormwater runoff and raw sewage poured into Chedoke Creek and Cootes Paradise from 2014 to 18.

Targeted dredging of the creek was underway before a public dispute with the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI) halted the clean-up.

The agency, which represents the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, said it wasn’t notified that the city would be asking the province for an extension and that it had to learn through the media — adding that the city is offering “far, far less” money than what it will take for HDI to conduct Indigenous-led environmental monitoring.

The city said the extension was requested “after evaluating project completion scenarios, including engagement with permitting agencies regarding extensions to associated permits.”

Work to begin the targeted dredging of Chedoke Creek had begun in July 2022 before being paused on Aug. 18, 2022, when representatives of the HDI exercised their treat rights to attend the site.

“After several unsuccessful attempts to restart the project safely, the City agreed on Oct. 6 to allow all contractors for the project to move to standby and not continue to attempt dredging works until further notice,” said a city spokesperson. “At this time, all communications from the City to the HDI are being conducted through representative legal counsel.”

The city entered into environmental monitoring agreements with the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and the Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council. Conversations with the Huron-Wendat Nation continue with the terms of a monitoring agreement in place, and the city is awaiting a signed agreement.

#SewerGate timeline

January 2014-July 2018: A bypass gate in the combined sewer overflow tank is left about 5 per cent open, and some 24 billion litres of stormwater runoff and raw sewage get pumped into Chedoke Creek and Cootes Paradise.

November 2019: After a whistleblower comes forward to provide details for a Hamilton Spectator report, the city acknowledges what is now known as #SewerGate. City council’s vote to issue a public apology was decided at 3:30 a.m. after a marathon meeting.

December 2020: The city is fined over #SewerGate by the provincial environment ministry

February 2021: Consultation with Indigenous groups, including HDI, begins.

April-June 2021: Prep work for Chedoke Creek remediation begins. The province approves a dredging plan. The province sets a Dec. 31, 2022 deadline for completion.

September 2021: Two city managers who had oversight of Chedoke Creek when the discharge occurred for years on end leave their jobs.

February 2022: The city and HDI have their last meeting, per Detlor.

January-August 2022: While this was not directly due to #SewerGate, seven of 16 elected leaders in Hamilton, including three-terms Mayor Fred Eisenberger, retire from city council.

July: Milestone Environmental Contracting Inc. is awarded an estimated $5.94-million contract for the work that is now paused.

Aug. 18-23: Community members representing Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council showed up on August 18 and 23 at Kay Drage Park, citing “treaty rights to attend the site.” They succeed in bringing a pause to Milestone’s contracted work.

Sept. 20: The city says work is set to resume.

Oct. 11: The city says it has asked the province to intervene.

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