The mayor and the city have issued a public apology to Hamilton residents in addition to the release of 10 documents they withheld after a massive sewage spill into Chedoke Creek secret more than a year.
The documents are now available on the city’s website.
The decision to apologize and reveal details of the spill came after a four-hour, closed-door overnight meeting, which ended early Thursday morning.
However, four other documents — two staff reports about the spill and two that show councillors knew of the leak — will not be made public.
As part of a motion brought forward by Ward 1 Coun. Maureen Wilson, residents will get a staff summary of water samples taken from Chedoke Creek between 2014 and 2019 and a public health report detailing any health-related incidents connected to the contaminated waterway.
Staff will also prepare a document that details when the mayor and council were informed of the leak.
The documents will also be shared with the City of Burlington, Halton Region Royal Botanical Gardens, Bay Area Restoration Council, Halton Conservation Authority, Hamilton Conservation Authority and Environment Hamilton.
Councillors say they were acting on legal advice when they opted to withhold details of the spill, despite knowing since last January that 24 billion litres of sewage and stormwater had flowed through a partially open gate from a combined sewer overflow tank over the course of four and a half years.
Wilson presented her motion on Wednesday, asking for a formal apology to the public over council’s failure to disclose that information.
Wilson said the motion was about public “trust and confidence,” adding that “when you have done something wrong, you should say you’re sorry.”
Her motion also calls for the city to reconcile with Indigenous water walkers who had concerns about waste found in the harbour and Cootes Paradise.
Wilson stressed that people are “worried about their exposure to the spillage and the health and well-being of their families, their friends and themselves.”
The documents council opted not to reveal include two reports obtained by the Hamilton Spectator — including one that revealed dredging of the creek — and two that were given to council on Wednesday from city staff.
Stoney Creek Coun. Brad Clark voiced concerns about “the tenor of the debate” on Wednesday night.
Clark stressed that he is “fine supporting the apology” but asked “at what point is the apology really what the residents are looking for as much as what are we going to do from here forward — how are we going to fix this mess?”
He says the focus should be on fixing the transparency and accountability while restoring the creek, mitigating the damages and ensuring that “these issues don’t happen again.”
In addition to discussing the Chedoke Creek spill apology, councillors also approved rates for the 2020 water and wastewater/stormwater rate budget, which will now see a combined rate increase of 4.11 per cent, effective Jan. 1, 2020, compared to the original four per cent brought to the table during the general issues committee (GIC) on Monday.
The rate hike was part of a motion brought to the GIC by Coun. Tom Jackson asking for five extra staffers to “physically” inspect city sewer mains, valves and water outfalls in light of the Chedoke Creek spill.
In a release, the city says an average bill for a household consuming 200 cubic metres of water annually will be about $753 in 2020, representing an increase of $29.70.