Hamilton receives another change to deadline for cleaning up Chedoke Creek

HAMILTON – In another change to the timelines for cleaning up the Chedoke Creek waterway — the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks now says Hamilton can take until the end of October to finish the work.

Hamilton mayor Andrea Horwath said, “I want to personally thank the provincial government for addressing the City’s concerns. I appreciate the collaboration of City staff, MECP staff, Minister Piccini and his office with myself and my office that resulted in the revised order. All of us want to see the remediation of Chedoke Creek completed as soon as possible and this new cooperative timeline will allow that to happen.”

The city says representatives engaged with Stephen Burt, District Manager for the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, to discuss concerns with the amendments to the deadline in the Order and their vote to submit an appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal – saying the previously amended deadline of August 31 was not enough time.

The original deadline was December 31 and the Ministry moved that deadline ahead by 6 months on a project that has already seen a year’s delay to clean up raw sewage sediment from the Chedoke Creek that has been collecting in the creek for 4 years.

The city’s water director Nick Winters says that sediment, along with other contamination risks are negatively impacting the plants and wildlife in the creek, and if it remains longer could risk the plants and wildlife in Cootes Paradise, where the creek flows into.

“This was a positive and collaborative discussion with the goal of identifying a common path forward that would not require the City to file an appeal, supports the City’s concerns regarding the August 31, 2023 deadline to complete the in-water targeted dredging work, and still expedites the remediation of Chedoke Creek. During that discussion, it was agreed that a deadline to complete the in-water targeted dredging work of October 31, 2023 would be more achievable provided the City and its contractor are able to gain free and unimpeded access to the work site and able to assure the contractor of same,” said the city in an emailed statement.

As part of the agreement to extending the deadline to October 31 – Burt told Hamilton officials in a Communication Update HW.23.01 – Chedoke Creek Remediation – MECP Order Amendment that must provide the Ministry with weekly written reports about the progress of the work.

Hamilton previously voted in a Special Council meeting to submit an appeal to the August 31 deadline.

A total of 24 billion litres of raw sewage spilled into the creek, over a period of four years. The spill was kept quiet by Hamilton City Council and was revealed by a 2019 Hamilton Spectator investigation. That spill led to Ontario ordering the city to clean up the mess.

Last year, in October 2022, Hamilton disclosed that while the province of Ontario was requiring them to work with the surrounding First Nations communities to clean up the creek — the HCCC was not willing to enter into environmental monitoring agreements in the same capacity as the other First Nations. Instead, the HCCC’s chosen representative, Aaron Detlor, via the Haudenosaunee Development Institute, demanded over $350,000 from Hamilton and wanted the city to change development protocols that would see all construction in the city need to be approved by the hereditary chiefs of Six Nations.

That was something that Winters says the city of Hamilton was not willing to do, and did not have the capacity to offer even if it did want to.

As a result, HDI was reported to have sent protesters to the worksite to obstruct workers and equipment, making an unsafe work environment for those brought in to clean up the creek. As a result the cleanup efforts were halted.

Detlor outlined in emails to the city that HDI needed capacity funding from the city of Hamilton to cover costs of 39 individuals placed “on standby” at a cost of $15,000 a day totalling an additional $585,000.

Winters told reporters that he had contact with Detlor on March 7 to discuss the proposed environmental monitoring agreement Hamilton was proposing to the HCCC — an agreement that lays out the same terms that are involved in the monitoring agreements with three First Nations communities: Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, Six Nations of the Grand River and the Huron-Wendat Nation.

Winters says Detlor had “concerns” about the proposed agreements but says that Detlor did not outline what those concerns were and did not commit to a meeting date to discuss them.

Winters says that both the province of Ontario and Hamilton City Council have directed their staff to work with HDI as one of four entities entitled to putting environmental monitors on the creek cleanup — along with several other projects happening in the city.

Winters told TRT that he has not had a chance to explain to the Confederacy Chiefs the risks present to plant and wildlife and says he does not think they have been briefed at all on the current status of the health of that ecosystem.

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