Hamilton City Hall Credit: Joey Coleman

Ward 12 Councillor Lloyd Ferguson wants to add an emergency bypass pipe to discharge sewage into Ancaster Creek during the most extreme weather events. He says it is preferable to the potential for basement backflows.

Other council members’ responses were mixed, many noting the environmental impacts of putting any sewage directly into waterways, especially in this case as discharged sewage will flow into Cootes Paradise.

The City of Hamilton is presently subject to an Ontario Ministry of Environment order to clean up Cootes Paradise after discharging over 24 billion litres of wastewater into Cootes.

Ward 8 Councillor John-Paul Danko cut through the debate with an astute argument why he was voting in favour.

“In the event of a catastrophic flood that overwhelms the system, right now that overflow sewage would be flowing into people’s homes, into their basements and then in Ancaster Creek, so there’s really no difference if you just overflow directly into the Creek and avoid people’s homes,” Danko said adding “that makes perfect sense.”

Danko continued this proposal will need to be added to capital budget plans and is unlikely to occur because ” the stormwater management system does not receive adequate funding right now as it is.”

“I’m just pointing out that a funding source in the event that we were approved for this would be from a stormwater management fee,” Danko added.

Danko and newer members of council want a stormwater run-off charge to address Hamilton’s sewage overflow problems. A fee would both provide funds to improve the system while decreasing storm run-off into the system by encouraging on-site water retention by property owners, including large parking lots.

The Ministry of the Environment is extremely unlikely to approve the sewage by-pass pipe, which Ferguson acknowledges.

Ferguson criticized the Ministry of the Environment as a bunch of ‘bureaucrats in Toronto’ who “may live on the 25th floor of a condo in Downtown Toronto and not appreciate the risk of this sort of thing”.

Ferguson wants to force the Ministry of the Environment to turn down the application “If they’re going to turn us down, let’s let them turn us down. And then we can go public with that to show that we at least tried.”

The vote at Public Works Committee on Wednesday passed unanimously with Farr (W2), Nann (W3), Jackson (W6), Danko (W8), Pearson (W10), Ferguson (W12), and Vanderbeek (W13) in favour.

During the debate on Friday at the Council ratification meeting, there was much pushback to the proposal.

The matter was deferred to September because no Public Works senior managers were present to answer questions.