*Please note this statement from Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward was first released through the City of Burlington and is being shared here. – JB*
Like residents of Burlington, Hamilton and neighbouring municipalities, I am shocked and disturbed to hear of the massive sewage spill into the Cootes Paradise watershed. Like many, we are left asking how such a thing could have happened over such a long period of time, what the impact is to the environment and our residents, and why the public, and partnering municipalities and agencies were not notified?
We are aware that the Ministry of Environment, Conservation & Parks is investigating, and we look forward to a full understanding and public reporting of what occurred. However, we shouldn’t have to wait to hear about sewage spills at the conclusion of a Ministry of Environment investigation; this is an environmental and public health issue that needs to be addressed collectively right away.
There are more questions than answers at this point, and Burlington will be requesting a full response to these questions on behalf of all residents impacted in our area communities including:
1. What is the human health impact to residents living around the Bay, or who have enjoyed recreation at the Bay? What is the impact to the ecology of the Bay, and plants, wildlife? How will the impacts of the spill be remediated?
In this endeavour, Burlington stands ready to assist, as we have in the past on the Randle Reef cleanup (a $2 million contribution) and Cootes to Escarpment eco-park initiatives.
We need these answers immediately.
2. How can we ensure this never happens again? How did this happen over a long period of time without being detected and immediately addressed? Do we have appropriate monitoring protocols in place to test water, raise red flags and prompt investigations when contaminant levels are elevated?
3. Is there provincially-mandated public reporting of any spills that affect air, land or water, and if not, why not?
We will be seeking that the province implement immediate mandatory public reporting of any spill that has the potential to contaminate land, air or water. In the meantime, I commit to voluntary reporting and to look into whistleblower policy protections; I will encourage area municipalities and regions to do the same.
Had this been in place, Burlington and agencies with a role and stake in Cootes Paradise would have been immediately notified of the spill, along with the public. We should not have to learn about contamination of our shared water from media reports.
As we go forward, looking for answers, preventative action and remediation, Burlington stands ready to help.
The City of Burlington and the City of Hamilton are neighbours and our friendship and history of working collaboratively together goes back many years. We are also partners in many formal areas, such as the cleanup and remediation of Randle Reef, our shared work of traffic management in the Waterdown Area, and as part of the Bay Area Climate Change Office, to name just a few. Given this relationship, along with our shared watershed and potential impact to residents, it is unacceptable that we (and the public) were not notified of this spill in a timely and direct manner.
We are focused on getting answers, making sure something like this doesn’t happen again and doing what is necessary to cleanup the mess in our shared watershed.
I’ve had an opportunity to speak with Hamilton Councillor Lloyd Ferguson, Chair of the Public Works committee and member of the Royal Botanical Gardens and Hamilton Conservation Authority Boards, as well as Councillor Maureen Wilson, Hamilton Deputy Mayor, to share our concerns and questions and formally ask for the release of all documents to the public and to us.
I have a scheduled called with Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger to share the same information and request.
As we did before with the clean up of Randle Reef, the City of Burlington is ready to help our neighbour and partner for the greater good. The environment, clean water and clean air are not confined to narrow municipal boundaries and the impact and resolution of this issue isn’t either.
— Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward
*Posted by John Bkila, the Mayor’s Media and Digital Communications Specialist.