Draining most of downtown Hamilton is a small and very interesting brick sewer, built in 1922/1923. Piecing together verbal clues and using maps proved an effective method for finding entry to this coveted and prized drain. First known exploration was by Michael Cook, although many others have conquered what has been referred to as Ontario's dirtiest drain. I myself found this drain to be rather clean in contrast to some of the others in the area, although the wastes in this drain should not be draining into the harbour.
Accompanied by Bryce and Stefan, we ventured towards our entry point, only to find a group of people standing too close for us to enter without arousing suspicion. We decided to kill some time at a nearby Tim Hortons. Heading back to the manhole, we found the loiterers to have vacated, leaving us free to enter. I was last to go in, and just before stepping onto the first rung, a lady on a motorized cart scooted by, glancing over but not seeming terribly interested.
The ladder was quite old and crusty, and a few rungs were almost completely rusted out. At the bottom of the ladder, we were met with a nice big concrete arch, and the warm humid climate of a typical drain. Opting to travel West towards the downtown core, our first feature encounter was a short slide branching up into a room. There was a rope laid out, however it seems the only thing holding it in place was the flow through a sanitary line at the top of the slide. This small chamber served as an overflow for the sanitary line, should this line find itself over-capacity. At 9pm on a Saturday, this line was at capacity. At 6am or 6pm, shower time and dish washing time respectively, I imagine this line would double its flow and most probably overflow into the main storm drain, effectively dumping sanitary waste directly into Hamilton harbour. These overflows were designed to handle flows of decades past, however they do not seem sufficient enough to meet todays demands.
Past this overflow room, we came upon the next feature. Underneath John St, a branch goes North at one of the nicest brick junctions I've ever seen. Conveniently, there are handrails installed to help pedestrian traffic up the slippery slide into the next sections. They don't make drains like they used to!
Following the junction is a mostly uneventful stretch of brick pipe that eventually leads to a plunge pool junction where 2 other pipes drop their flow into the main trunk. The flow was too much to cross comfortably, and given that it lead to 2 crouching pipes, we decided to turn around and head back. Left to explore for another time is towards the lake, where the pipe expands into a double barreled RCB that dumps straight into the lake.
In my opinion, this system should be intercepted by storage tanks and sent directly to the WWTP. The amount of sanitary waste flowing untreated into the lake is staggering.