st lawrence drain

Controversy follows $1.6M plan to save old Toronto drain pipe

Drains aren't normally considered a contentious issue, but in the case of the pipe below the North St. Lawrence Market site, suddenly everyone has an opinion.

An improbable battle is brewing in Toronto over none other than a old sewage drain. That's right, a 186 year old pipe is the subject of controversy while the city tries to move forward with the long overdue redevelopment of the North Market.

The issue began a few years ago when an old drainage system was discovered here, a site that's been up for development since 2010.

The main site of the St. Lawrence Market has been around since 1803, and an archeological assessment of its northerly portion found remains of market buildings dating all the way back to the early days in 1820.

The excavation uncovered the central drainage system, storage cellars, and artifacts such as pottery, tools, and a glass bottle from J.J McLaughlin, the inventor of Canada Dry ginger ale.

But the recent controversy arose after the city proposed a $1.64 million dollar project to cover the drain with a glass floor for preservation and display purposes.

The proposal outlines "construction services to accommodate the inclusion of a section of the 1831 central drain archaeological resource found on the site for public viewing and interpretation."

Mayor John Tory said in a press release issued earlier today that he "cannot justify" the additional expenditures, and encouraged City staff to "find a better way" to feature the storied poop chute.

The glass feature has resulted in a battle between conservationists who believe the drain has historical value and archeological significance...

... And ardent critics of what they perceive as another example of frivolous government spending.

The city has said that it's still wrapping up the last stretch of the archeological salvage operation and is looking for ways to incorporate the site into the new buildings.

Regardless of the outcome of this particular debate, the city hopes to have the project completed by summer 2020, which is way later than initially projected.

Lead photo by

Josh Wise


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