'You wouldn’t catch me splashing around Albion Falls'

Community Aug 16, 2017 by Gord Bowes Hamilton Mountain News

Cold water pouring over hot skin on a sunny summer’s day. It’s the way people have cooled down from time immemorial.

Plenty of people have done it at Albion Falls, but is it a good — or even safe — idea?

Hamilton Public Health doesn’t test for water quality at Albion Falls because it is not regarded as a public swimming area.

But tests by various bodies over the years should give one pause.

“You wouldn’t catch me splashing around Albion Falls,” said Lynda Lukasik, executive director of Environment Hamilton.

“It’s pretty to look at, but I wouldn’t go in.”

Albion Falls, the gorge and the waterway above the cascade are all “No public access” zones and anyone caught within the area could be charged with trespassing. The city advises the public it recommends no one enter the water as it is not tested.

Still, people can regularly be seen sitting in or walking through the water.

During a heavy rain, stormwater from city sewer lines as far west as Garth Street is collected and runs — mostly underground — to the area of the old Upper Ottawa Street dump where it flows above ground in a creek south of the Lincoln Alexander Parkway.

At the Dartnall Road interchange, it joins tributaries from as far south as Dickenson Road and proceeds northeast to Albion Falls and the Red Hill Creek, said Mark Bainbridge, director of water and wastewater planning and capital for the city.

The storm sewers aren’t carrying human waste — though they could be from illegal connections at some point in the system (see sidebar) — but they do contain debris and contaminants such as oil washed off the street when it rains, said Bainbridge.

As much as 30 times the normal flow of water can pour over Albion Falls during a storm, making it a dangerous place to be, as 10 hikers who had to be helped out by firefighters found out on Aug. 7.

In the early 2000s, Environment Hamilton did an extensive water quality study of the Red Hill Creek and its tributaries at sewer outflow pipes.

“It found really high E. coli levels,” said Lukasik.

A similar study in 2012 found similar high levels in the creek, though its focus was on outflows in the creek below the escarpment.

The fact the water headed to Albion passes through the old dump, even though it has a leachate collection system, is another potential problem, said Lukasik, and there are still some sanitary sewer cross-connection issues.

A 2013 Hamilton Conservation Authority study of the Upper Ottawa Creek subwatershed noted elevated concentrations of chloride, sodium, some metals, and phosphorus, plus potential sanitary sewer contamination.

“I think it’s fair to say there is reason to be concerned about the water quality,” said Lukasik. “There are a number of reasons why it isn’t a good idea to be goofing around in the water there.”

In May and June of this year, students from Redeemer University College working under the guidance of Darren Brouwer, associate professor of chemistry, took samples around Albion Falls. 

It’s just a snapshot, stressed Brouwer, but it offers some hope as the levels of nitrates, phosphates, phosphorus and bacterial contamination were around provincial targets. 

“It’s not perfectly clean, but it doesn’t stand out as being particularly problematic, particularly compared to the kind of stuff we find in Chedoke (Creek),” said Brouwer, referring to high levels of E. coli his students have found in Chedoke Creek, up to 400 times the provincial limit of 2,400 units per 100 millilitres of water.

He said students this year found E. coli counts of 300 to 400 per 100mL of water around Albion Falls. By comparison, beaches are closed when 100 E.coli or more per 100mL of water is found. The city’s bylaw for sewer discharges puts a cap of 2,400 E. coli per 100mL.

Still, you probably won’t catch Brouwer cooling down in the cascading water of Albion Falls.

“If I was at the base of the falls, I probably wouldn’t intentionally go in there,” he said. “I’d be hiking with open-toed sandals and I wouldn’t worry if my foot slipped in, but I wouldn’t go bathing there.”

'You wouldn’t catch me splashing around Albion Falls'

Water quality tests at Hamilton waterfall should give one pause

Community Aug 16, 2017 by Gord Bowes Hamilton Mountain News

Cold water pouring over hot skin on a sunny summer’s day. It’s the way people have cooled down from time immemorial.

Plenty of people have done it at Albion Falls, but is it a good — or even safe — idea?

Hamilton Public Health doesn’t test for water quality at Albion Falls because it is not regarded as a public swimming area.

But tests by various bodies over the years should give one pause.

Related Content

“You wouldn’t catch me splashing around Albion Falls,” said Lynda Lukasik, executive director of Environment Hamilton.

“It’s pretty to look at, but I wouldn’t go in.”

Albion Falls, the gorge and the waterway above the cascade are all “No public access” zones and anyone caught within the area could be charged with trespassing. The city advises the public it recommends no one enter the water as it is not tested.

Still, people can regularly be seen sitting in or walking through the water.

During a heavy rain, stormwater from city sewer lines as far west as Garth Street is collected and runs — mostly underground — to the area of the old Upper Ottawa Street dump where it flows above ground in a creek south of the Lincoln Alexander Parkway.

At the Dartnall Road interchange, it joins tributaries from as far south as Dickenson Road and proceeds northeast to Albion Falls and the Red Hill Creek, said Mark Bainbridge, director of water and wastewater planning and capital for the city.

The storm sewers aren’t carrying human waste — though they could be from illegal connections at some point in the system (see sidebar) — but they do contain debris and contaminants such as oil washed off the street when it rains, said Bainbridge.

As much as 30 times the normal flow of water can pour over Albion Falls during a storm, making it a dangerous place to be, as 10 hikers who had to be helped out by firefighters found out on Aug. 7.

In the early 2000s, Environment Hamilton did an extensive water quality study of the Red Hill Creek and its tributaries at sewer outflow pipes.

“It found really high E. coli levels,” said Lukasik.

A similar study in 2012 found similar high levels in the creek, though its focus was on outflows in the creek below the escarpment.

The fact the water headed to Albion passes through the old dump, even though it has a leachate collection system, is another potential problem, said Lukasik, and there are still some sanitary sewer cross-connection issues.

A 2013 Hamilton Conservation Authority study of the Upper Ottawa Creek subwatershed noted elevated concentrations of chloride, sodium, some metals, and phosphorus, plus potential sanitary sewer contamination.

“I think it’s fair to say there is reason to be concerned about the water quality,” said Lukasik. “There are a number of reasons why it isn’t a good idea to be goofing around in the water there.”

In May and June of this year, students from Redeemer University College working under the guidance of Darren Brouwer, associate professor of chemistry, took samples around Albion Falls. 

It’s just a snapshot, stressed Brouwer, but it offers some hope as the levels of nitrates, phosphates, phosphorus and bacterial contamination were around provincial targets. 

“It’s not perfectly clean, but it doesn’t stand out as being particularly problematic, particularly compared to the kind of stuff we find in Chedoke (Creek),” said Brouwer, referring to high levels of E. coli his students have found in Chedoke Creek, up to 400 times the provincial limit of 2,400 units per 100 millilitres of water.

He said students this year found E. coli counts of 300 to 400 per 100mL of water around Albion Falls. By comparison, beaches are closed when 100 E.coli or more per 100mL of water is found. The city’s bylaw for sewer discharges puts a cap of 2,400 E. coli per 100mL.

Still, you probably won’t catch Brouwer cooling down in the cascading water of Albion Falls.

“If I was at the base of the falls, I probably wouldn’t intentionally go in there,” he said. “I’d be hiking with open-toed sandals and I wouldn’t worry if my foot slipped in, but I wouldn’t go bathing there.”

'You wouldn’t catch me splashing around Albion Falls'

Water quality tests at Hamilton waterfall should give one pause

Community Aug 16, 2017 by Gord Bowes Hamilton Mountain News

Cold water pouring over hot skin on a sunny summer’s day. It’s the way people have cooled down from time immemorial.

Plenty of people have done it at Albion Falls, but is it a good — or even safe — idea?

Hamilton Public Health doesn’t test for water quality at Albion Falls because it is not regarded as a public swimming area.

But tests by various bodies over the years should give one pause.

Related Content

“You wouldn’t catch me splashing around Albion Falls,” said Lynda Lukasik, executive director of Environment Hamilton.

“It’s pretty to look at, but I wouldn’t go in.”

Albion Falls, the gorge and the waterway above the cascade are all “No public access” zones and anyone caught within the area could be charged with trespassing. The city advises the public it recommends no one enter the water as it is not tested.

Still, people can regularly be seen sitting in or walking through the water.

During a heavy rain, stormwater from city sewer lines as far west as Garth Street is collected and runs — mostly underground — to the area of the old Upper Ottawa Street dump where it flows above ground in a creek south of the Lincoln Alexander Parkway.

At the Dartnall Road interchange, it joins tributaries from as far south as Dickenson Road and proceeds northeast to Albion Falls and the Red Hill Creek, said Mark Bainbridge, director of water and wastewater planning and capital for the city.

The storm sewers aren’t carrying human waste — though they could be from illegal connections at some point in the system (see sidebar) — but they do contain debris and contaminants such as oil washed off the street when it rains, said Bainbridge.

As much as 30 times the normal flow of water can pour over Albion Falls during a storm, making it a dangerous place to be, as 10 hikers who had to be helped out by firefighters found out on Aug. 7.

In the early 2000s, Environment Hamilton did an extensive water quality study of the Red Hill Creek and its tributaries at sewer outflow pipes.

“It found really high E. coli levels,” said Lukasik.

A similar study in 2012 found similar high levels in the creek, though its focus was on outflows in the creek below the escarpment.

The fact the water headed to Albion passes through the old dump, even though it has a leachate collection system, is another potential problem, said Lukasik, and there are still some sanitary sewer cross-connection issues.

A 2013 Hamilton Conservation Authority study of the Upper Ottawa Creek subwatershed noted elevated concentrations of chloride, sodium, some metals, and phosphorus, plus potential sanitary sewer contamination.

“I think it’s fair to say there is reason to be concerned about the water quality,” said Lukasik. “There are a number of reasons why it isn’t a good idea to be goofing around in the water there.”

In May and June of this year, students from Redeemer University College working under the guidance of Darren Brouwer, associate professor of chemistry, took samples around Albion Falls. 

It’s just a snapshot, stressed Brouwer, but it offers some hope as the levels of nitrates, phosphates, phosphorus and bacterial contamination were around provincial targets. 

“It’s not perfectly clean, but it doesn’t stand out as being particularly problematic, particularly compared to the kind of stuff we find in Chedoke (Creek),” said Brouwer, referring to high levels of E. coli his students have found in Chedoke Creek, up to 400 times the provincial limit of 2,400 units per 100 millilitres of water.

He said students this year found E. coli counts of 300 to 400 per 100mL of water around Albion Falls. By comparison, beaches are closed when 100 E.coli or more per 100mL of water is found. The city’s bylaw for sewer discharges puts a cap of 2,400 E. coli per 100mL.

Still, you probably won’t catch Brouwer cooling down in the cascading water of Albion Falls.

“If I was at the base of the falls, I probably wouldn’t intentionally go in there,” he said. “I’d be hiking with open-toed sandals and I wouldn’t worry if my foot slipped in, but I wouldn’t go bathing there.”