A city committee unanimously passed a staff report Monday that will take a big step towards cleaning up the Hamilton Harbour.
The general issues committee has recommended the city contribute $132 million to the Woodward Avenue Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade and expansion plan.
The upgrades are part of a larger vision to get Hamilton Harbour off the list of Environment Canada’s areas of concern.
“Delisting the harbor is one of the greatest environmental challenges that our city faces,” said councillor Chad Collins.
Hamilton Harbour is one of 14 areas of concern around the Great Lakes.
Water quality, sediment remediation, toxic substances, public access and aesthetics are among the reasons the harbour is on the list.
The master plan to upgrade and expand the water treatment plant began in 2005 when the plant was nearing 85 per cent capacity, said Dan McKinnon, director of water and wastewater management operations. The plan included projections that the city would expand by about 3,000 homes per year.
McKinnon said the orginal target to delist the harbor was 2015.
The plan derailed with an economic downturn in 2010 and the city did not expand as projected. Capacity at the treatment plant was reduced to 77 per cent, McKinnon said, and city staff needed to reassess the upgrades.
McKinnon said the plant upgrades are “substantially complete” and the next phase includes expansion.
Both the provincial and federal governments have agreed to contribute $100 million to the project, he said.
Upgrades to the plant could solve environmental and economic problems.
“Hamilton Harbour was originally a wealth creator,” said John Hall, co-ordinator of the Harbour’s Remedial Action Plan. “But it became a nasty legacy.”
Chris McLaughlin, executive director of the Bay Area Restoration Council and a delegate at Monday’s meeting, referenced a 2007 York University report that showed the return on restoring the harbor would show a near-billion dollar economic return.
“That’s a headline in the Globe and Mail,” he said. “When the Hamilton Harbour is fully restored and it was done by the community, not by scientists alone.”