The Hamilton Spectator
City continues to inspect sewer system for leaks
Information from pilot inspections will help inform a ‘broader program’ for combined sewers
The city aims to finish inspecting hundreds of maintenance holes by spring in response to a years-long sewage leak into Hamilton Harbour.
So far, the water division has checked 460 of 631 chambers as part of the “risk-based” inspection pilot, director Nick Winters told councillors Monday.
“We’re aiming to have the entire pilot completed by the end of April.”
The city started the pilot after discovering in November that an estimated 337 million litres of sewage from 50 properties had spewed into the harbour for 26 years. Staff’s theory is that a contractor guided by faulty maps mistakenly connected the Burlington Street-area sanitary pipe to a storm drain in 1996.
In January, workers also found an estimated 59-million harbour leak caused by an improper connection sourced to a construction project that same year.
Also during the pilot, focused mostly on Ward 3, the city found another leak — roughly 41 years but much smaller at 470,000 litres — blamed on a faulty sewer lateral from a single home.
The initial larger discovery sparked a provincial order in January that gives the city a number of tasks to complete between February and the end of June.
That includes an assessment of a “detailed in-pipe inspection” in addition to the targeted approach, a “gap analysis” of the city’s program compared to industry standards and procedures to update “discrepancies” in sewer mapping.
In the order, senior environmental officer Tyler Kelly wrote the city “does not have adequate programs to inspect, monitor and identify unauthorized connections causing spills” and predicted more discoveries.
Information from the pilot will help inform a “broader program” for the city’s combined sewer system, Winters told councillors Monday, noting staff will update them later this year on potential costs and staffing needs.
The city is also hiring consultants for some of the ordered tasks.
Coun. John-Paul Danko said he supported the staff efforts “100 per cent.”
But “it seems odd” that Hamilton is “being singled out” while other Ontario municipalities with old combined sewer systems would have the “exact same problems.”
In that regard, the city is “not unique” when it comes to undetected long-running spills, Danko suggested.
“We’re going to have the best performing stormwater sewage system in the entire province after this is done.”