City staff say it will take years to fix Hamilton’s aging water mains
One of this year’s breaks involved a pipe that was installed in 1881
More than 70 per cent of Hamilton’s water mains are older than 38 years, with about 35 per cent of the water pipes more than 68 years of age and some 100 years old.
“It scares me,” said Andrew Grice, director of water and wastewater, during a presentation to council’s first general issues committee meeting of the new term. “It keeps me up at nights.”
But Coun. Lloyd Ferguson said if the state of Hamilton’s water pipes gives city officials nightmares, what about homeowners who live near those water mains that are 100 years old?
“I suspect (the state of the city’s water pipes) does scare some of our residents.”
Wastewater officials were proposing another increase to the water and wastewater rate of 4.66 per cent, or another $32.20 to the average homeowner’s bill for 2019. The increase, which was approved by councillors, will mean the average bill for a homeowner will be about $722.90 from last year’s $690.70.
Last year’s water rate increase was about 4.5 per cent, which resulted in an $18-million surplus, officials said.
Stoney Creek Coun. Brad Clark, who questioned why councillors had to vote on the issue so soon after being sworn in, left the council chambers to avoid voting against the rate increase.
Despite the higher revenue of $222.3 million from last year’s $210.9 million, Grice acknowledged it will still take years to improve the city’s aging water and wastewater infrastructure.
“You will not see a drastic increase in a single year,” said Grice.
Last year, Hamilton residents saw significant water main breaks throughout the city, including at Clappison Avenue and Dundas Street at a cost of over $55,000; Upper Paradise and Rymal Road costing nearly $170,000; six water main breaks along the Upper Ottawa corridor at a total cost of $201,000; and $150,000 to fix a broken water main at Delbrook Court and Stroud Road.
One of this year’s water main breaks at Grace and Dunn avenues involved a pipe that was installed in 1881.
And during Thursday’s discussion, city crews were responding to a water main break at James Street near Charlton Avenue.
Ferguson said city officials are “expecting” residents to pay for upgrading the water pipes through a rate increase that is double the rate of inflation.
“It’s significantly above inflation,” he said, but voted for the recommendation.
Councillors will discuss the recommendation at their Dec. 19 council meeting.
Grice said staff are crafting a long-term strategy to better deal with replacing the aging water and wastewater pipes. The plan isn’t expected to be completed until sometime in 2019.
Staff have been trying to address the city’s aging water and wastewater infrastructure issue since at least 2004 after years of neglect, said Ward 4 Coun. Sam Merulla.
“There were years when surpluses were seen and not one penny was saved for a rainy day. It’s a total disgrace.”
Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger, who was first elected as a Ward 5 alderman in 1991 acknowledged councillors and staff back then didn’t address the need to replace the city’s infrastructure.
“When I first got here we really weren’t doing any of that asset management approach,” he said.
But since amalgamation, councillors have been approving rate increases to raise the needed revenue to replace the city’s water infrastructure.
The city is expected to spend about $273.1 million in gross capital expenses in 2018.