Noxious bacteria and debris found in Hamilton creek

Volunteers have found condoms, tampons, garbage and algae in drains on the Red Hill Creek. Environment Hamilton fears a return to the dangerous E. coli levels of the past.

Environment group fears return of dangerous E. coli levels

This photo shows an outfall drain on the Red Hill Creek. Environment Hamilton's citizen-powered monitoring program has found algae, extreme odour and items flushed down toilets. (Environment Hamilton)

Condoms. Tampons. Chip bags. Water bottles.

All are items volunteers have found in spades recently in the Red Hill and Davis Creeks.

For the past three months, east-end residents have monitored storm and sewer outfall pipes through Environment Hamilton's Pipewatch program.

What's Flowing Into the Red Hill Creek?: A community forum

When: Monday, Nov. 5, 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Where: Elizabeth Bagshaw School, 350 Albright Rd.

Everyone is welcome.

And despite efforts 10 years ago to clean up the beleaguered system, the citizen monitoring shows that items flushed down toilets are still appearing in the creek, and debris and algae clog the pipes, said Katie Stiel, project co-ordinator with Environment Hamilton. Some also have a stench.

"Some people think it's just a visual thing. It's not pretty to look at," Stiel said. "But it is a concern from a health point of view. This is something we need to take seriously."

The findings will be presented at a public meeting on Nov. 5. Attendees will learn about lab results from samples from the creek, which are being tested this week, Stiel said. Environment Hamilton will lead a discussion about how to move forward on the issue.

Troubling pipe discharge is not a new issue in the Red Hill watershed.

In December 2001, the Ministry of Environment ordered the city to analyze discharge from every outfall. When the city failed to do so in the set timeline, it was referred back to the MOE.

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Environment Hamilton sampling at the time found discharges containing fecal matter and sanitary debris, and E. coli 160 times higher than the allowable level, Stiel said.

Preliminary results from the last three months show high levels of E.coli and total coliform, she said.

More than a dozen residents monitored pipes along the creek, which eventually flows into Lake Ontario.

Among them was Lydia Cartlidge, a Quigley Road resident who monitored three pipes near her home.

"Once a week, I would go out and look and make my notes," she said.

Cartlidge checked the pipes every Monday. One wasn't bad, one had a milky film in the water and the third had a milky film and debris.

Coun. Sam Merulla said he has had some complaints about Red Hill Creek, particularly related to illegal dumping.

"I would like to see an increase in monitoring and testing of the water source coupled with a systematic plan of action to combat dumping by increasing scheduled maintenance and enforcement measures," he said.

The meeting will be at Elizabeth Bagshaw School, 350 Albright Rd., from 7 to 8:30 p.m.