Hamilton S—ty Hall – how not to not tell the public about an environmental disaster
Sewage discharge cleanup: Unexplained insect die-offs, algae blooms have been observed
AWARE News Network
Shocking news from Hamilton, thanks to the Spectator’s award-winning investigative reporter Steve Buist:
– In December 2018, raw sewage was noticed floating in the Chedoke Creek, which flows into Cootes Paradise, a sensitive and highly biodiverse ecosystem. In July 2018, the city went public with the news that a gate at a massive sewer overflow tank had been left partially open but the problem was fixed.
– In January, 2019, City Council learned that the discharge was not a one-off event: the gate had been open for 4.5 years, leading to the discharge of 24 billion litres of watery sewage into the Chedoke Creek.
– This was discussed by council behind closed doors as a “legal” matter. Why was this a legal matter? because the city’s neglect was deemed so significant that it is in legal jeopardy – the environment ministry may lay charges and the city could face a fine of up to $6 million.
– Advice from an “environmental lawyer” (read, lawyer retained to justify assaults on the environment): keep the information from the public as long as possible.
– The Spectator was leaked confidential reports – one from January 16 2019, and a second from September 4 2019, and on November 20 offered the city a chance to respond before it ran the story.
– Hamilton Council went into closed session that very morning. About an hour later, the city put out a news release, in a standard p.r. attempt to pre-empt the Spec story.
The Spec published its exclusive report yesterday, which revealed the extent of the information kept from the public by staff, and the fact that city councillors had known the full story for 10 months but also kept the secret.
Also yesterday, CHCH reported that Royal Botanical Gardens was unaware of the leak. “It’s quite alarming how long sewage was escaping a holding tank that was designed to catch it.” And that the environment ministry had stated that “it’s unfortunate that the city chose to keep information from the public.
Today, the CBC reports that
– Two Hamilton councillors have called for the city to release of all reports and issue an apology to residents for not informing them.
– Former environmental commissioner Diane Saxe says that while there may be legal justification for Hamilton to retain details of how the spill occurred, there is nothing to prevent the city from telling the public about the discharge and its impact.
Hamilton is investigating a leak – no, not the sewage leak.
The information leak! Let’s get our priorities straight, folks.