HAMILTON — City officials say they are at an end to options of resolving a conflict with the Haudenosaunee Development Institute and its members, who they say are preventing workers from cleaning up a contaminated waterway, Chedoke Creek, in Hamilton.
They are asking the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks for an additional year to comply with a cleanup order for Chedoke Creek and an order to HDI to prevent them from obstructing cleanup work along the waterway.
The HDI was invited to speak with the City on the cleanup as part of a process outlined with the Ministry of the Environment the Department of Fisheries when the city sought permits to begin the dredging of the creek.
Ontario instructed the city of Hamilton to reach out to the Mississaugas of the Credit, Six Nations of the Grand River and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council.
In emails shared with TRT, HDI Director/lawyer Aaron Detlor says that the City of Hamilton must pay HDI $350,000 in order to continue discussions. That price is broken down into $40,000 for “engagement costs”, $165,000 for “monitors over life of project”; $75,000 for “review of reports”; $35,000 for “internal Haudenosaunee engagement” and $35,000 for “external engagement with Hamilton.
Detlor also outlines a “Daily Cost of Standby” set at $15,000 per day and says the days HDI has been on “standby” is numbered at 39 – totalling another $585,000 in costs.
Detlor did not return requests for comment or clarification to explain what “standby” costs were and if they were connected to protesters who, according to the city of Hamilton, have attended the cleanup site and obstructed work.
Hamilton says that HDI reps have stopped cleanup work on at least 40 instances.
In an update to the city council on October 13 — Cari Venderperk, Director of Watershed Management for Public Works said that work to clean the creek was supposed to resume on September 28 but that “members of the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI) continue to attend the site daily, tying off their watercraft to the dredger pipeline within the active construction site, expressing they are exercising their treaty rights, which has delayed the work due to health and safety concerns.
Vanderperk writes that contractors have asked HDI reps to stay in a side area reserved for them to protest safely and they have refused. Hamilton Police have attended the site and have had similar conversations with protesters who are being told there is a risk to their safety if they continue to canoe in the waterway in an active construction area that the City says is unsafe.
The report says that there have been escalations by HDI reps at the site, intimidating contractors on the site.
The report to council says that on the evening of October 3, unidentified persons broke into the dredging barge and stole tools and equipment and says an emergency injunction may be required.
Contractors with the cleanup crew told the city that they were invoking their right to refuse to work due to “dangerous and intimidating behaviour from the HDI representatives on site”.
The city says it is asking the Ministry for an extension to December 31, 2023 to complete their cleanup of Chedoke Creek.
In part that delay is due to the lack of engagement with HDI. The report says that while the city has had successful consultations with Mississaugas of the Credit, Six Nations of the Grand River and the Huron-Wendat Nation — HDI has not engaged fairly. “Staff have been communicating with the HDI regularly since August 18 to try to find a reasonable accommodation that allows the project to proceed without further delay. Unfortunately, staff have encountered obfuscation and changing demands,” says the report along with a follow up that HDI is demanding $350,000.
Two Row Times spoke with Nick Winters, Director of Hamilton Water with the City of Hamilton to get further detail about what the delays are all about and what the HDI is demanding from Hamilton.
Winters explained that before HDI will consent to the cleanup of the creek, Hamilton must change its internal policies so that every development and construction permit that comes through the city must seek the consent and approval of HDI.
This is something the City Council in Hamilton is just not willing to do.
It’s also something he says the City Council can’t do, and that meeting that demand would require changes to provincial law — namely the Municipal Act and the Planning Act. And that those changes can’t just happen overnight, or by the order of a city council.
Winters explained to TRT that 24 billion litres of raw sewage ran into the waterway over 4 years.
Winters says that sediment has high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus that can create an environment where algae blooms can flourish in those waterways.
Algae blooms, Winters says, have the risk of growing in areas of Cootes Paradise and Hamilton Harbour. These overgrowths of cyanobacteria are also referred to as blue-green algae and can be harmful to people, animals and the environment if it becomes too dense or uses up the oxygen in the water.
According to the CDC, Cyanobacterial blooms can expose people to toxins through ingestion, inhalation, skin contact or eye contact. There are several varying symptoms associated with contact and exposure to blue-green algae including abdominal pain, headache, diarrhea, sore throat, pneumonia, as well as neurological symptoms such as numbness, tingling, burning, drowsiness, salivation and sleep disturbances.
Winters says that one particular concern for the waterway is the algae blooms’ ability to block out sunlight through the water that increases risk for plant life in the area of Cootes Paradise.
The algae can also use up the oxygen in the water when it dies off, leaving oxygen depleted water which can also impact plant and animal life within the waterway.