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sewage contaminates creek - Red Hill Valley Hamilton

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CATCH News – January 21, 2006

City sewage still contaminating creek

Water samples downstream of the city’s Woodward Avenue sewage treatment plant are much more polluted than those taken from higher up in Red Hill Creek, according to a study conducted last fall by students working under the direction of McMaster professor George Sorger.

Dr Sorger’s stream stewards program trains high school students in formal laboratory methods of analysis so that they can test waterways of concern to local residents. In a decade of work, the program has examined many local streams, regularly identifying problems that were subsequently confirmed by government investigators.

Effluent from the Woodward plant has been repeatedly examined over the years but Sorger has found little improvement. The latest report was released on Wednesday evening at a meeting of the Beach Preservation Committee attended by over 80 people. It found “very high counts of total coliforms [bacteria]” downstream of the sewage treatment plant as well as “very high ammonium concentrations and very high phosphate in the same effluent”.

The results generated renewed demands for the establishment of a community liaison committee focused on the Woodward plant. One existed in the past, but was arbitrarily replaced last year with promises of occasional public meetings.

At the request of the Beach community, the student group also examined a ditch running along Eastport Drive. Residents fear that toxics may be escaping from nearby ponds used by the Hamilton Port Authority to store contaminated dredgings from the harbour. These confined disposal facilities are also sometimes referred to as the tollgate ponds. The ditch lies between the ponds and the residential area that sits along the sand dune forming the beach strip.

Sorger’s team used water fleas (Daphnia) to test the ditch for toxic contaminants and compared the results to waters taken directly from the harbour and got mixed results. More Daphnia were killed by the ditch water than the bay water in some samples, but not in all of them so the study concludes that “more extensive and precise measurements need to be taken here.”

The full report will be posted soon on the Environment Hamilton website where several earlier reports can also be found at http://www.environmenthamilton.org/projects/water/water_intro.htm.
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