Tightened deadline of Chedoke Creek dredging appealed by City of Hamilton


Published March 10, 2023 at 6:28 pm

Nick Winters, director of Hamilton Water, says a plethora of “unknowns” rule out the local government being able to complete the provincially-ordered Chedoke Creek clean-up by the new deadline.

Under direction from city council, who were briefed on the matter during a special, closed-door meeting on Thursday, the City of Hamilton says it will appeal the amended order from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP). Hamilton and its contractor had a Dec. 31 deadline to complete work at Chedoke Creek and Cootes Paradise, where some 24 billion litres of raw sewage was spilled in what is known as the #Sewergate scandal.

Last Friday (March 3), MECP informed the city the daeadline will be four months earlier, on Aug. 31. Winters had previously stated the optimistic scenario for the city was to be done by the end of October.

“When you dredge, as our contractor has advised us, you never really know what can be buried,” Winters said in a virtual media conference on Friday. “There can be buried trees, large rocks, that can slow it down and damage equipment. With the Aug. 31 deadline, time has been removed that would have accommodated any of those challenges. We’re anxious to get started, but we don’t have confidence that this is achievable.

“The contractor (Milestone) is the same one that worked on the Randle Reef project with us, and they have said, ‘you’re always going to encounter something.’ Plus there is potential for wet weather, supply chain delays, and workforce delays.

“That’s why we advised council that the best course of action is to appeal the amended director’s order (from MECP),” Winters added. “We hope that they’ll understand the challenges with that Aug. 31 deadline and be amenable to revising again… we would push for an expedited hearing.”

The appeal would be heard by the Ontario Land Tribunal. The deadline has now moved twice. Initially, it was Dec. 31, 2022. Last August, representatives of the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI) asserted their treaty rights to attend the site. Their traditional territory includes the water system.

Hamilton, in terms of government-to-government relations, has environmental monitoring agreements with the Six Nations of the Grand River, the Mississaugas of the Credit Nation, and the Huron-Wendat Nation. It does not yet have an agreement with HDI, which represents the Haudenosaunee Confederacy of Chiefs Council.

Aaron Detlor, general legal counsel of HDI, previously told inTheHammer that it costs $300,000 to $400,000 for a fulsome Indigenous consultation. The work involves reviewing a fellow government’s consultant reports, having on-site monitors while the remediation is carried out, and also informing a community of 100,000 people.

Winters said Hamilton is “capped” at offering $40,000 to each community. No funds, as of yet, have been shared with HDI.

Prior to the province pushing up the deadline, Hamilton Water had projected that the cleanup would start on July 17 and end around Oct. 31.

Winters said there is a possibility of starting earlier than that. Last summer, there was a standing stop-work order through July 15 in order to protect fish spawning for an at-risk species. But rescue work was performed in order to move the vulnerable lilliput mussel population.

“Our permits are all in order and we don’t have those requirements any longer,” Winter said. “The previous order from the (federal) Department of Fisheries and Oceans did refer to a species at risk, which was the lilliput mussel. We were able to perform a rescue, then relocate, although we had to wait for water temps to reach a threshold before doing so. That work was completed in June.

“Because the rescue was done, we don’t have to do it again. But that is an example of the unknowns you can encounter with this. There could be another species at risk that is discovered.”

The city is planning to launch an online dashboard to inform the public about its progress with the cleanup.

“The approval for that is in my inbox,” Winters said.

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