Sewage spill into Hamilton Harbour goes undiscovered for 26 years

Amarah Hasham-Steele
December 8, 2022
Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes

A leak in a combined sewer pipe in 1996 led to approximately 337 million litres of sewage being spilled into Hamilton Harbour before it was discovered in Nov. 2022 

On Nov. 22, Andrea Horwath, mayor of Hamilton, released a statement regarding a recently discovered sewage spill.  

“At approximately 4:00 p.m. today, I was notified of a sewage spill into Hamilton Harbour in the area of Burlington Street and Wentworth Street that appears to have started in 1996. In line with my commitment to transparency, I asked that this information be made public immediately,” wrote Horwath. 

On Nov. 23, the City of Hamilton patched up a leak in a combined sewer pipe near Wentworth Street North and Burlington Street East.  

According to the City of Hamilton website, the total cost of the leak repair was $29,830. Of this amount, $17,000 went to excavation and sewer repairs, $9,830 went to vacuuming wastewater to stop the spill and $3,000 went to road restoration. 

This leak had gone undiscovered for 26 years, having been created in 1996 and was only uncovered last month. In this time, the City of Hamilton estimates that 337 million litres of sewage were spilled directly into Hamilton Harbour.  

The harbour played a large part in Hamilton’s economic growth in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and its role as an economic centre led to significant pollution of its waters. In 1987, the International Joint Commission identified the harbour as an Area of Concern on the Great Lakes, leading to the establishment of a restoration plan in 1992.  

The harbour is also home to numerous fish species, many of which have been declining over the last few decades. According to CBC Hamilton’s interview with Hillary Prince, a spokesperson for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the species that are currently thriving in the harbour are the ones most tolerant of poor water conditions.  

The Hamilton Harbour website states that, while the harbour remains an Area of Concern for the IJC, it has seen significant progress over the past thirty years.  

“[T]raction towards a healthier harbour is evident. Improving water quality, healthier wildlife populations, more opportunity for public access, and the return of locally vanished species, such as bald eagles, are benchmarks to celebrate,” reads the Hamilton Harbour website. 


  • Amarah Hasham-Steele

    Amarah is in her third year of the Arts and Science program, pursuing a combination in English and Cultural Studies. She is thrilled to be the News Editor this year, after working as the News Reporter during the 2021-2022 school year. When she's not editing articles, she can be found updating her Goodreads profile and drinking matcha lattes.

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