Hamilton apologizes for Chedoke Creek sewage spill, fined $2.1 million


Published July 20, 2023 at 5:23 pm


The City of Hamilton received a fine of $2.1 million after it pleaded guilty to the Chedoke Creek spill charges laid by Ontario’s environment ministry.

The City announced today (July 20) that it had reached an agreement with the Crown on the penalties in the Ontario Court of Justice over the 24 billion litres of raw sewage that leaked into the creek between January 2014 and July 2018 because of an open bypass gate. In addition to the $2.1-million fine, the City will pay the Royal Botanical Gardens $364,500 for damages incurred as a result of the discharges as well as a $525,000 victim fine surcharge for a total of $2,985,500.

The City had kept the gravity of the spill a secret until 2019 when The Hamilton Spectator exposed the disaster.

“The City of Hamilton unequivocally apologizes to the community and takes full responsibility for the events around Chedoke,” said Janette Smith, Hamilton’s city manager. “We would like to assure everyone, especially the public and key stakeholders and partners, that we are doing everything possible to remediate the Chedoke Creek and impacts to Cootes Paradise.”

Smith said the City’s goal is to improve the water quality in the area and the overall watershed health. 

“To achieve this, the City will keep working hard to find and fix any issues in the wastewater system,” she said in a press release. “We will continue to work with community and Indigenous partners, and with other levels of government, to identify and implement more initiatives to make sure our water stays clean and safe. We apologize to the community, our partners, and the members of Council for the way this was handled. Our staff are determined to finish the cleanup work and earn back the trust of the public and our partners.”

The City added that it apologizes for “the undue impact on the natural environment.”

When asked by inthehammer.com if a specific person (or persons) was held responsible for the incident, City officials said during a virtual press conference that the apology is from the City of Hamilton as a whole.

The City said it has been working closely with the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks to investigate the spill and respond to the ministry’s orders since the summer of 2018. The City pointed to the targeted dredging of Chedoke Creek to improve its condition, which resumed July 17. It is expected to take three-and-a-half months to complete.

The City said it’s also investigating and conducting offsetting measures in Cootes Paradise.

Hamilton has “spent considerable public resources complying with these orders,” it added in a press release.

Mayor Andrea Horwath issued a statement today in response to the City’s guilty plea and fine.

“When I was elected, I promised to bring a new era of accountability and action to the City of Hamilton,” she said. “Today, I am encouraged by the City’s guilty plea in relation to the Chedoke Spill, the apology that has been extended to Hamilton residents and the accountability measures that are being taken in response to this serious breach of environmental stewardship and public trust.”

Horwath said “there was too much secrecy in this case and not enough disclosure.”

“In this matter, the city failed in its duty to the people of Hamilton, both in protecting our natural environment and in its subsequent handling of the situation,” she said. “Mistakes will happen, but we owe it to the people of Hamilton to own up to those mistakes and demonstrate real change in our approach going forward.”

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