Reviving the Hamilton Harbour

Hamilton’s waterfront is being restored to its natural beauty thanks in great part to the City’s largest investment in infrastructure, the Woodward Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrades known as the Woodward Upgrade Project (WUP).

WUP is part of the Clean Harbour Program, which supports the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan, an ongoing focus by the city to reverse years of industrial pollution in the harbour which resulted in significant impairment of water quality, loss of fish and wildlife habitat, and contaminated sediment and fish and wildlife populations.

The harbour’s condition reached a nadir in 1985, when it was identified as an Area of Concern under the Canada–United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Andrew Grice, Director of Hamilton Water at the City of Hamilton, says the Woodward Upgrade Project is a major component to the harbour being delisted from this category.

“The upgrade project is a $340 million, multi-phase, multi-year process that includes a number of sub-projects, each of which has its own specification and timelines,” he says. “This has been the big driver for the city over the last number of years that includes a number of different stakeholders, and WUP is a major piece of the remedial action plan,” says Grice.

“Everything that we’re doing at the plant right now is strictly focused on improving water quality.”

Main Wastewater Pumping Station Upgrades

The Woodward Upgrade Project was divided into three unique projects. “The first project is our Main Wastewater Pumping Station Upgrades, which comprises of replacing existing pumping station that was constructed back in 1964,” says Grice. “The new station will be upgraded with a forward-thinking approach. This is a once-in-lifetime project, so we have taken the opportunity to build for the future.”
Upon completion, there will be 12 new large pumps to handle up to 1,700 mega litres of wastewater flow that comes from to the City of Hamilton. A larger and deeper wet well will mitigate system flooding, provide increased system storage and reduce solids buildup during dry weather flows.

Electrical Power Upgrades

“Electrical Power Upgrades is the second project,” says Grice, who adds that the increased standby power created by the upgrade will be enough to power to all essential loads, and maximize energy efficiencies wherever possible.

“This includes the installation of four new 3 mega-watt generators that will power the entire plant during any brown-outs,” says Grice. “In the future, we may see more power surges and with this upgrade we will be able to run the entire facility with backup power in the future—it’s at the heart of everything.”

Tertiary Treatment Upgrades

The third project—the flagship project that has the biggest benefit to the clean harbour program—is the installation of our tertiary treatment system. “We are currently classified as a secondary treatment facility,” says Grice, “The addition of a tertiary treatment process will allow the plant to meet and exceed stringent Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan targets.”

“Overtime, the reduction of solids and phosphorus in our wastewater effluent is going to have a huge impact in helping to rejuvenate Hamilton harbour and ultimately delisting it as an area of concern in the future,” says Grice.

Economic Impact

As the largest port in Ontario, the Hamilton Harbour contributes an astonishing $6 billion in economic activity and 38,000 jobs in Ontario, not to mention it is one of the most bio-diverse, rich areas in Canada. Its environmental stewardship is a vital component of its continued economic contributions.

“We have very strong economic goods movement through our harbour, and a great deal of industry in the harbour area. The City is also making significant investments in condo developments and multi-use facilities on the city’s waterfront, it’s important for us to have a clean harbour that can be enjoyed and accessed by all.”


A project of this size is bound to peak the curiosity of its citizens, which is why the City has prioritized public communication. The WUP Community Liaison Committee (CLC) works diligently to keep the public up-to-date and exchange information during the planning and construction phases of the project. There is also a website that adds updates on the project, time-lapse videos, and newsletters surrounding the project.

“We’re very happy to be delivering this project, and we are very proud to have the support of council to implement this program,” says Grice. “The entire team is very proud of the work being done here and the future it will help ensure for the community at large.”

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