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The Hamilton Spectator - 2021-10-14

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City won’t face sanctions over sewage plant bypass

>>LOCAL

MATTHEW VAN DONGEN Matthew Van Dongen is a Hamiltonbased reporter covering transportation for The Spectator. mvandongen@thespec.com

Hamilton will not face provincial sanctions over a treatment plant failure that forced the city to dump untreated sewage into Red Hill Creek. Heavy rains sent so much debris-laden sewage into the Woodward Avenue plant Oct. 4 that the flow shut down two huge screens with sewer trash. To prevent backups in eastend homes, the city diverted the equivalent of 19 Olympic-sized swimming pools of untreated sewage into the creek, followed by another 120 pools worth of partly treated wastewater. Sewage also spilled out onto the Woodward Avenue plant property, but was cleaned up. The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks requested an “incident report” on the sewage bypass and spill, as well as a separate report on an earlier bypass incident from Sept. 22. The ministry will review those reports “carefully,” said spokesperson Gary Wheeler. But he added the province is satisfied the city “took appropriate action to address the spill” and provided all bypass information required under the city’s environmental permit for the treatment plant. The city faces no orders over the latest bypass. By comparison, it faces two charges and multiple cleanup orders related to a 24-billion-litre sewage spill into Chedoke Creek. The city submitted the requested incident reports Tuesday, said wastewater operations head Nick Winters. He added staff are still probing exactly why that flow was enough to “blind” the two screens. Winters said the “unexpected” downpour obviously contributed to the severity of the plant bypass, noting the flow into the plant just after midnight Oct. 4 was twice what the facility was rated to handle. The problems started when the rush of water blocked two of the plant’s four screens with sewer trash like needles and tampon applicators. Normally, mechanical arms constantly clear those screens — but the sudden spike in flow shut down the motors on two of the arms. Parts of the lower city saw between 40 and 50 millimetres of rain that night, while rain gauges on the west Mountain recorded as much as 70 millimetres. Even so, the city’s plant has survived bigger storms without having to dump completely untreated sewage. Winters said city staff are examining rainfall amounts, equipment and whether there was an unusual amount of debris flowing into the plant.

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