‘Complex fix’ anticipated for central Hamilton sewer misconnection discovered through inspection

Work crews on scene at Rutherford & Myrtle Avenues in Hamilton fixing an improper sewer connection that's caused sewage to leak into Hamilton Harbour for the past 26 years. Global News

Hamilton, Ont.’s, director of wastewater operations says a connection error which crossed a sewer with a storm purge in a city centre neighbourhood appears to be something that was not done intentionally.

Shane McCauley says the root cause of the misconnection, in an area around Rutherford and Myrtle avenues, has not been ascertained and that city staff will need to dig into the history of construction to figure out how the matter was handled.

The problem dates back to work done 26 years ago with 11 residential properties discharging the wastewater.

Read more: Public works finds another misconnection dumping stormwater, wastewater into Hamilton harbour

“We were able to verify on Monday that it was more than just the one home, but that entire sewer was cross-connected to our storm sewer,” McCauley confirmed to Global News.

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The city’s director of water, Nick Winters, says the Rutherford and Myrtle find is “a bit of a complex fix” and will require a sewer realignment.

“So our teams are actually in a meeting room working on that right now to figure out how that’s going to happen,” Winters explained.

McCauley said they’ve identified a possible solution but have yet to substantiate whether it could pose “other issues.”

“We’re hoping to begin construction in that area in the next day or two to fix it permanently,” said McCauley.

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Winters says they still have to confirm if five of the 11 properties were discharging waste into the combined sewer in order to estimate of how much was actually drained into the harbour.

“But I mean, just for context, I would imagine that it’s probably about a fifth the size of what we saw with the sewage leak from last November,” he said.

That spillage, in the Burlington and Wentworth Street area, discharged an estimated 337 million litres of sewage through a hole in a combined sewer pipe “made purposefully” in 1996.

City crews continue to inspect nearly 300 other maintenance access chambers across Hamilton for similar misconnections.

To date, 150 have been surveyed with six undocumented sewer regulators.

Read more: Hamilton says hole ‘made purposefully’ 26 years ago in sewer drained wastewater into harbour

“Priority is the older areas of the city where we have combined sewers and in particular areas where we have combined sewers in close proximity to storm sewers where there’s a greater potential for them to have been inadvertently connected,” said Winters.

The city also may have to implement further inspection protocol as per a potential order from the Ministry of the Environment Conservation and Parks (MECP).

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Winters says talks are pending on that possibility, putting into question what a permanent inspection program would look like.

He expects such a program ultimately will uncover similar misconnections at other locations across the city.

Additional staffing or redirecting of current staff is likely needed to complete the work.

“That is part of what we’ll have to put a recommendation in front of city council, is how do we resource this in a more sustainable manner and turn it into a daily search,” he said.

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