Harbour cleanup gets $340 million boost with sewage plant upgrades

The bowels of Hamilton’s wastewater systems are about to get a major overhaul.
Methane gas collected from the Woodward Wastewater Treatment Plant is stored in a massive dome painted like Earth, which has been a landmark in the city for years. The dome will be repainted in the coming years as part of upgrades to the plant. (Adam Carter/CBC)

The bowels of Hamilton's wastewater systems are about to get a major overhaul.

Representatives from the federal, provincial and municipal governments gathered today at the Woodward Wastewater Treatment Plant to celebrate the start of construction for $340 million in upgrades to the aging plant.

Representatives say the overhauls will have a major impact on water quality in the harbour, which has been undergoing cleanup efforts for years.

Sewage is collected in a pumping station at the Woodward treatment plant. (Adam Carter/CBC)

"A sewage treatment plant is pretty sexy to me. The first thing I do in the morning is … oh, nevermind," joked MPP Ted McMeekin.

McMeekin said that being able to sip water safely is of utmost importance to the area, and that these improvements will make sure that's always the case.

"We just take so many blessings for granted," he said.

The pumping station almost looks like a massive, musty-smelling well.

Upgrades at the plant are ongoing until about 2022, and will include a new raw sewage pumping station, a new energy centre and electrical upgrades, a new chlorine contact tank and upgrades to both the Red Hill Creek outfall and the collection system.

The new raw sewage pumping station will have increased capacity for wet weather, the city says, which will help avoid the discharge of wastewater into Hamilton harbour. That happens when the system is overcome by a deluge of rain.

Representatives from the city gave a tour of the site today. (Adam Carter/CBC)

The current pumping station is designed to pump 1,300 megalitres of sewage per day, and the new station is designed to pump around 1,700 megalitres.

All of Hamilton's wastewater (with the exception of water from Dundas, which has its own pumping station) is treated at the Woodward plant.

This old sewage treatment station will be decommissioned when the new one is built. (Adam Carter/CBC)

Byproducts from the treatment process can be converted into natural gas and electricity. The current pumping station is a monolith of a building, with eight huge pumps moving wastewater in and out of a huge well.

Improving water quality will help further eradicate Hamilton harbour's past reputation as a "stinking rotten quagmire of filth and poisonous waste," says Chris McLaughlin, the executive director of the Bay Area Restoration Council.

Dan Chauvin Director is the director of water and wastewater engineering with the City of Hamilton. He led the tour Monday. (Adam Carter/CBC)

"To spend $100 million on pipes underground carrying sewage isn't necessarily the sexiest thing, but it's a necessary thing," he said.

"This is a really remarkable move forward."

The upgrade project is funded for $100 million from the federal government and $100 million from the province, with the remainder coming from the city. 

Representatives from the federal government, the province, and the city attended Monday's tour. From left to right: Dan Chauvin, Chris McLaughlin of the Bay Area Restoration Council, Mayor Fred Eisenberger, MP Bob Bratina, MPP Ted McMeekin, MP Filomena Tassi and Dan McKinnon, general Manager of public works with the city. (Adam Carter/CBC)