There are lots of ways we can help to reduce the amount of water flowing off hard city surfaces into sewers.
By Candy Venni
Published December 02, 2015
You may recall the recent protest and news coverage regarding Hamilton Harbour. Two women spent days on a raft as a "Float-in" to point a spotlight on the terrible state of the Waterfront Trail.
Waterfront Trail (RTH file photo)
Littered with syringes, tampon applicators and other washed-up debris, it was eventually revealed that sewage had overflowed from full underground tanks due to a heavy rainstorm.
Imagine the compounded effect of rainwater coming off thousands of acres of roofs, roads and other hard surfaces, pouring into drains and sewers. The City just can't manage 2,031 kilometres of water mains, plus that much extra water flooding in all at once, efficiently.
On a positive note, the city has drastically scaled back the amount of sewage released into the harbour from combined sewers over the past two decades, spending 330 million upgrading the Woodward treatment plant and 120 million on nine more 'huge' sewage trapping tanks.
Low Lift Pumping Station, Woodward Avenue Water Treatment Plant (RTH file photo)
Unfortunately, we are rarely told when sewage does overflow into the lake unless you happen to notice signs on beaches, stating it's unsafe to swim due to high "fecal counts" (ewwww!).
There are lots of ways we can help by "getting our minds in the gutter" and reducing the amount of water flowing off hard city surfaces into sewers. The following suggestions can help put rainwater back in the soil where it can be safely absorbed.
Disconnect downspouts where it's safe to do so, then redirect water onto your own garden and create beautiful rain or bog gardens (google it) to absorb the water slowly, as nature intended.
Consider getting rain barrels with screens for watering your garden. Elevate them for a little pressure or use a hand pump to empty them out before the next big rainfall. Plants prefer rainwater over municipal water and there's a sense of satisfaction that comes from storing and using what nature gives us.
Look into permeable paving for driveways, walkways and ask/encourage local developers and politicians to advocate and do the same with parking lots.
Take steps to reduce household water use, especially during wet weather.
Ask a contractor about designing French drains or sinking perforated pipe into gravel if you have a sump pump, rather than having it hooked into your sewage pipe.
De-pave Paradise: join the growing movement to tear up asphalt in schoolyards, educate families about plant gardens and use permeable paving instead of concrete.
Start a group or team to encourage other members of the community to get involved with educational sessions as offered www.raincommunitysolutions.ca.
I was fortunate enough to grow up near ravines and waterways. Some of my fondest memories are of wading through streams, watching frogs, minnows and dragonflies. Now, as an adult, I live in Hamilton with its beautiful escarpment, waterfalls and miles of waterfront.
I know I'm not alone in the belief that we can see clear streams flowing into a pristine lake, children splashing in clean puddles, safe beaches to walk along and water we can swim in again.
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