A screen capture of the 2013 CCTV video footage which shows the sewage dropping into the stormwater pipe below. Credit: HANDOUT / City of Hamilton

Shit happens.

Hamilton’s 26-year wastewater leak into Hamilton Harbour from approximately 50 homes is best summarized as shit happens.

Director of Hamilton Water Nick Winters says a preliminary investigation, looking at construction documents, indicates a consultant intentionally drilled a hole from a wastewater line to a stormwater main which flows directly into Hamilton Harbour.

The City discovered the issue Tuesday morning during preparation for upcoming maintenance work. The Mayor was informed that afternoon, a hastily called press conference followed, and then Council was informed.

The response from the Mayor, as the head of the new Council, was exactly what they promised – immediate transparency.

Transparency was easy for the new Council. This is not their mess. It did not happen under their watch.

One person made a stupid mistake in 1996. Nobody caught it at the time.

26 years later, when the sewer pipes came up for maintenance work, today’s staff noticed something amiss while reviewing a 2013 CCTV video.

They immediately investigated and began corrective action.

In 1996, the consultant apparently thought the wastewater line was supposed to be connected to the Harbour stormwater outfall, or something like that.

Winters took over as Acting Director in late September last year. He was only recently made permanent director.

One of his first actions last year was acknowledging the 24 billion litres sewage leak into Cootes Paradise as “significant” and “frankly inexcusable”.

He’s been transparent since taking over, and I truly believe his accounting on this latest leak.

There are over 225,000 dwelling units in Hamilton. There are tens of thousands of commercial, industrial, and institutional sewer connections.

A minor sewage line running from 50 of those is not going to be inspected unless one of the houses reports a problem.

Maps showing the addresses served by the cut sewage pipe

As far as the 50 homes and businesses were concerned, everything was working fine. They flushed the toilet, and their shit disappeared.

The outfall is submerged. It is not easy to inspect. Winters stated that a large vessel was docked above it.

Even if the outfall was inspected, the flow volume from 50 homes is small relative to the stormwater trunk flow.

E. Coli from 50 homes would not noticeably elevate levels.

This is truly a case of once the mistake was made in 1996; it would not be detected until the City conducted an inspection. The City had no reason to inspect.

The real issue for the public is not this pipe, it is a pattern of fiascos in Public Works, and the fact Hamilton Water did not find this issue during recent reviews.

The CCTV footage showing the problem was recorded in 2013. Why wasn’t the problem noticed then?

Why wasn’t this problem found in 2018 when the City was secretly inspecting outfalls falling the 24-billion litre Chedoke Creek sewage spill?

Truly shit happens. In Hamilton, it just seems to happen more often.

New Mayor Andrea Horwath flushed this scandal down the proper pipe of transparency.

City staff are fixing the literal pipe, so it flushes to the water treatment plant.

Let’s hope proper hygiene continues in the future when it is this Council’s hands that are dirty.

The cut in a sewage pipe below the area of Wentworth Street North and Burlington Street East in Hamilton. The sewage pipe is draining into a storm water pipe.

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Last edited: November 24, 2022
Author: Joey Coleman
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One reply on “COLEMAN: Shit Happens”

  1. Thanks for an honest straight forward easy to understand account, but the question remains: Will residents be refunded the amount billed for shit that wasn’t handled or treated? The City certainly charges you if you have a water leak. My guess is that the average taxpayer in the area is owed about $9000. 00.

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