Hamilton city council are instructing staff to further explain an initiative suggesting a pipe to expel human sewage into Ancaster Creek – then into Cootes Paradise – needs to be built to relieve overflows in Ancaster during storms.
The issue was revealed during a public works committee meeting on Wednesday as part of a motion from Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson seeking provincial approval for an overflow pipe as a “final redundancy” to protect homes against large storms.
On Friday, council opted not to ratify sending the proposal to the ministry of the environment (MOE) and referred it back to a future public works meeting for more clarification on the impact of the conduit.
Ferguson said the problem is the capacity of a pumping station on Old Dundas Road near the entrance of Old Mill which has been overloaded “a number of times.”
“Staff have done a great job in trying to improve the capacity of that pumping station,” Ferguson told councillors. “But there have been failures and it backs up into the homes that you would pass when you were heading up to the mill.
Ferguson said the city’s water and wastewater department had made some advancements in fixing the problem with upgrades to the pumping station including a “very large diameter pipe” on Montgomery drive to fill up an underground storage tank to avoid back-ups into homes.
However, he said large storms still overwhelm the system with sewage ending up in homes and likely flowing into Ancaster Creek anyways.
City staff previously recommended against installing the pipe saying upgrades at the pumping station and the sewage capture tank should be enough to protect homes in the area.
A number of councillors showed concern over the proposal including Upper Stoney Creek’s (Ward 9) Brad Clark who wanted to know the environmental impacts of adding the pipe.
Absent from the council meeting were the city’s director of water Andrew Grice and director of planning for water and wastewater Mark Bainbridge to answer questions about the MOE ask.
Director of watershed management Cari Vanderperk said the city was planning to reach out to the ministry to understand what is required for approvals which she anticipated would be “a long process.”
“So an application would go in, likely to the ECA (environmental compliance approval) for that pumping station to amend the ECA and that’s a process that would certainly take some time,” Vanderperk told councillors.
Clark suggested the MOE is “seized” to the idea of sewage discharges around Lake Ontario in light of the province’s “pushing” of municipalities to correct overflow issues, particularly after Hamilton’s spill of 24 billion litres of sewage into Chedoke Creek.
“I think it is counterintuitive to request the installation of a stormwater overflow into Ancaster Creek given the millions of dollars we’re going to be spending at the other end in Cootes Paradise to clean up that issue,” said Clark.
Flamborough East (Ward 15) Counc. Judi Partridge, who is a member of the Halton-Hamilton Source Protection committee, said it would be wrong for her to support any action that would allow sewage to flow into Chedoke Creek.
“I wasn’t privy to the debate around the table, but it is an issue that we deal with at the source water protection committee and the province is pushing back,” Partridge said. “They are pushing back on all municipalities.”
Earlier, Ferguson acknowledged it was likely that the request would be turned down by the province but said it was his job to pursue the option.
“At the end of the day, I still have to show those homeowners I’m trying to protect their interest,” Ferguson said.
“Nobody wants to dump sewage into an Ancaster Creek, especially me.”