Ontario government has not found source of black water with sewage smell in Stoney Creek
Province still investigating black staining in ditch beside Bartek and red staining near Lake Ontario
What was thought to be acid leaking from Bartek Ingredients into Lake Ontario may not actually be the case as the continued investigation from the province is raising more questions than answers.
"Based upon our observations of the appearance and odour of material in the ditch and at the outfall to the lake, we have not yet confirmed that the two materials are from the same source," read a statement from Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks spokesperson Gary Wheeler.
"We can not confirm that the material in the ditch was caused by Bartek."
The issue emerged at the start of June after a resident near Cherry Beach Park in Stoney Creek complained to the city about a "sewage odour."
The city then eventually discovered a black substance in the water within a ditch close to Bartek Ingredients, a company that produces food-grade acid. The factory then reported cracks in its containment facility to the ministry as a potential source for a leak.
It's still unclear what the substance or substances are, how old the issue is and how it has impacted the local ecosystem.
Ministry says it could be more than one substance
One indicator that the substance draining into the lake and the substance in the ditch could be different is their respective appearances.
The substance in the ditch beside Bartek Ingredients is described as "black stained soil, black tinted water and a septic odour," while the outfall at the lake appears as "red staining" with a similar smell to the ditch. But both sites contain black, inky water and are a part of the same stormwater runoff system.
Bartek Ingredients told CBC News their hired consultants say testing of 19 soil and water samples taken on June 8 and again on June 18, didn't show that there's acid in the ditchwater.
The company is describing the black staining in the ditch as "organic material."
The city confirmed with CBC News it did investigate in the area to ensure the sewer system was operating as intended but "found nothing abnormal."
Andrew Grice, director of Hamilton Water, said he isn't aware of any other water issues at the moment and added that factories in the area are allowed to discharge into the sanitary system, but not into the open ditches that are connected to the stormwater runoff.
The city took three samples from the ditchwater near Bartek Ingridients. The results show the water has too much aluminum, iron, total phosphorus and zinc.
The ministry also recently collected more samples and will be testing them with its own experts.
It didn't confirm or deny if other factories or businesses in the area are being looked at, but did say routine inspections, including ones that are unannounced, occur based on a perceived level of risk. The city also conducts annual checks. It's unclear when Bartek's last inspection was.
Lynda Lukasik with Environment Hamilton told CBC News she hopes the water issue will prompt officials to take a closer look. She said everyday citizens should also be vigilant.
"The reality is government and regulators can't be there all the time," she said.
"Follow your gut — if something looks or smells weird, remember, observe, document and report."
Grice admits he doesn't have as much information as Bartek or the ministry, but his working theory is that chemicals reacted with something in the ditch.
Wheeler said it's too early to theorize.