Sewergate spurs 61 complaints to Ontario’s ombudsman — but no word on whether he will investigate

News Jun 30, 2020 by Matthew Van Dongen Hamilton Spectator

Hamilton’s Sewergate controversy spurred 61 complaints to Ontario’s ombudsman last year.

But ombudsman Paul Dube will wait for the conclusion of the province’s environmental investigation into Hamilton’s four-year, 24-billion-litre sewage spill before deciding whether a separate probe is warranted.

In his annual report released Tuesday, Dube noted the contentious spill into Chedoke Creek and beloved Cootes Paradise marsh spurred “public outrage” and multiple requests for an investigation.

The report says most complaints “focused on the city’s decision not to disclose the volume and duration of the spill,” information that was exclusively revealed by The Spectator after obtaining secret legal reports to council.

George McComb, for example, complained to the ombudsman that councillors were “negligent in (their) duties to the citizens of the city” by keeping the extent of the pollution secret for months. “Likely the cost to clean this mess up is going to be felt by the taxpayers,” he wrote in a complaint he shared with The Spectator.

Other concerns outlined by residents included the long-term environmental consequences, potential health risks and even tax hike implications associated with the spill.

Council apologized last fall for withholding information about the spill as well as a provincial cleanup order.

The city has since conducted studies suggesting no further creek cleanup is necessary, but council is waiting to see if the provincial Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks accepts the finding.

Separately, the ministry continues to investigate whether the city spill broke the law. Normally, the ministry would be expected to decide whether or not to lay charges within two years — or around the end of this summer.

But ministry spokesperson Jennifer Hall told The Spectator the limitation period for laying charges under the Environmental Protection Act was “suspended” in March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other local numbers in the annual report include:

  • 154 complaints about the City of Hamilton, a number lower than only Ottawa (200) and Toronto (404);

  • 557 complaints about the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre;

  • 77 complaints about a city meeting held in a Niagara-on-the-Lake hotel to interview prospective top bureaucrats. That’s the highest number of complaints ever filed about a single closed meeting. (The ombudsman found the relocated meeting itself was not wrong, but ruled it was illegally closed to residents who showed up and were denied entry.)

Matthew Van Dongen is a Hamilton-based reporter covering transportation for The Spectator. Reach him via email: mvandongen@thespec.com

Sewergate spurs 61 complaints to Ontario’s ombudsman — but no word on whether he will investigate

Ombudsman Paul Dube said in his annual report he won’t decide whether to probe the infamous sewage spill until the province completes a separate environmental investigation.

News Jun 30, 2020 by Matthew Van Dongen Hamilton Spectator

Hamilton’s Sewergate controversy spurred 61 complaints to Ontario’s ombudsman last year.

But ombudsman Paul Dube will wait for the conclusion of the province’s environmental investigation into Hamilton’s four-year, 24-billion-litre sewage spill before deciding whether a separate probe is warranted.

In his annual report released Tuesday, Dube noted the contentious spill into Chedoke Creek and beloved Cootes Paradise marsh spurred “public outrage” and multiple requests for an investigation.

The report says most complaints “focused on the city’s decision not to disclose the volume and duration of the spill,” information that was exclusively revealed by The Spectator after obtaining secret legal reports to council.

George McComb, for example, complained to the ombudsman that councillors were “negligent in (their) duties to the citizens of the city” by keeping the extent of the pollution secret for months. “Likely the cost to clean this mess up is going to be felt by the taxpayers,” he wrote in a complaint he shared with The Spectator.

Other concerns outlined by residents included the long-term environmental consequences, potential health risks and even tax hike implications associated with the spill.

Council apologized last fall for withholding information about the spill as well as a provincial cleanup order.

The city has since conducted studies suggesting no further creek cleanup is necessary, but council is waiting to see if the provincial Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks accepts the finding.

Separately, the ministry continues to investigate whether the city spill broke the law. Normally, the ministry would be expected to decide whether or not to lay charges within two years — or around the end of this summer.

But ministry spokesperson Jennifer Hall told The Spectator the limitation period for laying charges under the Environmental Protection Act was “suspended” in March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other local numbers in the annual report include:

  • 154 complaints about the City of Hamilton, a number lower than only Ottawa (200) and Toronto (404);

  • 557 complaints about the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre;

  • 77 complaints about a city meeting held in a Niagara-on-the-Lake hotel to interview prospective top bureaucrats. That’s the highest number of complaints ever filed about a single closed meeting. (The ombudsman found the relocated meeting itself was not wrong, but ruled it was illegally closed to residents who showed up and were denied entry.)

Matthew Van Dongen is a Hamilton-based reporter covering transportation for The Spectator. Reach him via email: mvandongen@thespec.com

Sewergate spurs 61 complaints to Ontario’s ombudsman — but no word on whether he will investigate

Ombudsman Paul Dube said in his annual report he won’t decide whether to probe the infamous sewage spill until the province completes a separate environmental investigation.

News Jun 30, 2020 by Matthew Van Dongen Hamilton Spectator

Hamilton’s Sewergate controversy spurred 61 complaints to Ontario’s ombudsman last year.

But ombudsman Paul Dube will wait for the conclusion of the province’s environmental investigation into Hamilton’s four-year, 24-billion-litre sewage spill before deciding whether a separate probe is warranted.

In his annual report released Tuesday, Dube noted the contentious spill into Chedoke Creek and beloved Cootes Paradise marsh spurred “public outrage” and multiple requests for an investigation.

The report says most complaints “focused on the city’s decision not to disclose the volume and duration of the spill,” information that was exclusively revealed by The Spectator after obtaining secret legal reports to council.

George McComb, for example, complained to the ombudsman that councillors were “negligent in (their) duties to the citizens of the city” by keeping the extent of the pollution secret for months. “Likely the cost to clean this mess up is going to be felt by the taxpayers,” he wrote in a complaint he shared with The Spectator.

Other concerns outlined by residents included the long-term environmental consequences, potential health risks and even tax hike implications associated with the spill.

Council apologized last fall for withholding information about the spill as well as a provincial cleanup order.

The city has since conducted studies suggesting no further creek cleanup is necessary, but council is waiting to see if the provincial Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks accepts the finding.

Separately, the ministry continues to investigate whether the city spill broke the law. Normally, the ministry would be expected to decide whether or not to lay charges within two years — or around the end of this summer.

But ministry spokesperson Jennifer Hall told The Spectator the limitation period for laying charges under the Environmental Protection Act was “suspended” in March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other local numbers in the annual report include:

  • 154 complaints about the City of Hamilton, a number lower than only Ottawa (200) and Toronto (404);

  • 557 complaints about the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre;

  • 77 complaints about a city meeting held in a Niagara-on-the-Lake hotel to interview prospective top bureaucrats. That’s the highest number of complaints ever filed about a single closed meeting. (The ombudsman found the relocated meeting itself was not wrong, but ruled it was illegally closed to residents who showed up and were denied entry.)

Matthew Van Dongen is a Hamilton-based reporter covering transportation for The Spectator. Reach him via email: mvandongen@thespec.com