Posted on August 24, 2022
A dredging machine has splashed into sewage-polluted Chedoke Creek for a $6-million cleanup job amid complaints by Six Nations hereditary leaders over a lack of consent under treaty rights.
A crew coaxed the dredger off a flatbed truck before an operator manoeuvred its hydraulic back legs and front shovel to drag it from the grassy shore into the shallow creek Monday.
The city has blocked public access to Kay Drage Park, which workers will use as a preparation area for the task of sucking up 22,000 tonnes of sewage sludge, a process that’s expected to wrap up in December.
The dredging machine that is being used to clean Chedoke Creek slowly eases towards the creek just southwest of the pedestrian bridge at Princess Point Monday morning.
The province ordered the project after The Spectator revealed in 2019 the city had kept secret the magnitude of a four-year, 24-billion-litre sewage spill into the west-end creek and Cootes Paradise.
On Thursday, members of the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI) asked the city to hold off on the project to allow for consultation.
On Monday, spokesperson Aaron Detlor said the HDI, which represents the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, isn’t against cleaning up Chedoke but lacks details of the dredging plan.
“We haven’t been given any opportunity to determine if this is in the best interest of the creek.”
Hamilton is covered by the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant treaty with the Anishinaabe, Mississaugas and Haudenosaunee. The Between the Lakes Purchase treaty with the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation of 1792 also applies to the city.
In a brief emailed response, a city spokesperson said staff “are still consulting with various key stakeholders” and noted no date has been set for the start of dredging.
The dredging machine that is being used to clean Chedoke Creek is parked on the shore after being slowly eased into the water just southwest of the pedestrian bridge at Princess Point Monday morning.
Last week, the city said it had communicated with First Nations and provided the HDI with project documents. As well, the city has “zero authority not to comply” with the provincial cleanup order.
In early July, the city wrote to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) to ask the province how it wanted to handle the issue of consent, which the HDI had raised in 2021. “This is not an issue that the city can address on behalf of the MECP.”
Asked for comment, a ministry spokesperson told The Spectator in an email it “has no role in providing guidance in this matter,” adding the city “is responsible for managing community concerns.”
Detlor, who is a lawyer, meanwhile, draws a distinction between providing documents and engagement. “If I take a bunch of scientific documents right now and drop them off at your desk, does that make my engagement with your meaningful, if you have no capacity to review those documents or understand them?”
He added HDI members would “likely” make a second trip to the Chedoke dredging site after their initial visit Thursday. “And now that we’ve seen that Hamilton doesn’t want to engage in good faith, I’m bringing more people with me.”
Detlor said the city’s approach to the Chedoke project will affect other matters, including a potential widening of the Red Hill Valley Parkway. “Those discussions are almost completely off the table right now.”
Last week, the HDI also issued a news release calling on Metrolinx to “meaningfully engage” with Indigenous leaders on rail lines planned through historical Haudenosaunee territory.
In addition to the Red Hill project, Detlor has criticized the city for a lack of consultation on harbourfront land sales and a CityHousing redevelopment near the valley’s creek.
At the site Monday, a worker with ECO Technologies, which dipped the Amphibex 400 into the creek near a footbridge that connects the waterfront trail to Cootes Paradise, said more prep work is required.
The dredging is to start at the north end of Chedoke and progress south toward Kay Drage Park to vacuum up sewage-soaked sediment from the creek bed, according to the city’s website.
The muck is to be sent through a pipeline to a management area in the park. Once separated from the sediment, the water is to be pumped into a sanitary sewer to be treated at the wastewater plant. The dried sediment will be trucked to a dump.