City responds to report of white substance in Howitt Creek

Guelph, ON, August 14, 2015—Last evening, the City of Guelph was alerted to an unknown substance in Howitt Creek near the pedestrian bridge in Howitt Park.

“An Environmental Protection Officer (EPO) arrived on site at approximately 7 p.m. to complete an inspection, after which the spill was reported to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change’s Spills Action Centre,” said Kiran Suresh, the City’s wastewater treatment plant manager. “A contractor was hired to vacuum the creek to remove the substance and the work was completed by about 10:40 p.m.”

During cleanup, the contractor removed approximately 27,000 litres of water containing the unknown substance from the creek, an amount equal to about 169 standard bathtubs full. The water was treated and disposed of by the contractor.

The source of the spill is unknown. The onsite EPO collected samples which will be tested for various compounds including oil and grease, ammonia, nitrogen, volatile organic compounds, phenyls, sulphides, pesticides and phosphorus. The EPO inspected upstream storm sewers and did not observe any evidence of the substance. Test results may help the City identify the substance.

A similar spill was reported and cleaned up from Howitt Creek on July 9, 2015. Testing of samples from that spill did not confirm the presence of any of the tested compounds, or definitively identify the substance. In both situations, none of the substances reached the Speed River.

These isolated spill events are not related to the drums found downstream during the York Trunk Sewer and Paisley-Clythe Feedermain construction project.

The City reminds residents and businesses to dispose of all garbage, including regular and hazardous waste, properly. Water from storm drains and sewers does not pass through the wastewater treatment plant. Storm water flows directly into Guelph’s rivers and streams untreated. Pouring anything other than rain water down storm drains, from grease and milk to household chemicals, can harm the health of rivers and the animals that depend on them. For more information on proper disposal of both regular and hazardous waste, visit

To report illegal pouring or dumping of any material into storm sewers, please call the City of Guelph, 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 519-837-5629.

For more information

Kiran Suresh
Plant Manager, Wastewater Services
Environmental Services
519-822-1260 extension 2960