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ARCHIVED - CEPA Annual Report for Period April 2000 to March 2001

3. Information Gathering, Objectives, Guidelines, and Codes of Practice

Part 3 sets out new requirements to establish, operate, and maintain an environmental monitoring system, conduct research and studies, and publish information, including a periodic report on the state of the Canadian environment. The Minister of Health is obliged to research the effects of substances on human health. New provisions require both Ministers to conduct and report on research on hormone-disrupting substances.

Part 3 also expands the Minister's authority to gather information and reaffirms the requirement to issue objectives, guidelines, and codes of practice. These are non-regulatory science-based targets or recommended practices.

New provisions require the Minister to issue guidelines respecting the use of the information-gathering powers in section 46 and to establish and publish the NPRI.

3.1 Monitoring

Environment Canada manages and participates in programs that monitor water quality, wildlife and biodiversity, climate and weather, and air quality. The following sections provide an example of the types of initiatives under way and their key contributions in 2000-01. Refer to the CEPA Environmental Registry for more information on monitoring activities.

Monitoring Programs

3.1.1 Environmental Monitoring Inventory

In 2000-01, Environment Canada initiated the development of the Environmental Monitoring Inventory, a database that contains information on Environment Canada's environmental monitoring programs. There are several hundred programs in the inventory that fall under four main categories - water quality, wildlife/biodiversity, climate/weather, and air quality. The Inventory does not contain monitoring data, but describes the monitoring programs and provides contact information for obtaining further information. To supplement the inventory, a mapping application is being developed that allows the user to query the inventory database and display the monitoring sites on a map of Canada along with specific information regarding the monitoring program. The mapping application is being integrated with the State of the Environment website on the Green Lane and will be made available to the public in the near future.

3.1.2 National Air Pollution Surveillance Network

The National Air Pollution Surveillance Network, established in 1969, is the primary air monitoring network in Canada. This joint federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal network manages 252 monitoring stations in 153 municipalities across Canada. In February 2001, the government announced that it will invest more than $29 million over five years to expand and refurbish monitoring stations across Canada. In 2000-01, air quality data were collected on components of and precursors to smog, such as sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulates, and volatile organic compounds. (The 1999 annual data report was published on the Internet in June 2001 and on hard copy in October 2001.)

3.1.3 Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network

The Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network, managed by Environment Canada, links the many groups and individuals involved in ecological monitoring in Canada to better detect, describe, and report ecosystem changes. Essential elements include various national and regional monitoring programs, more than 80 long-term integrated ecosystem monitoring sites, and a diversity of ecological monitoring initiatives conducted by numerous partners at all levels of government, non-government organizations, and volunteers. Notable results in 2000-01 include the collaborative development and initial implementation of a standardized set of ecosystem monitoring protocols, a single approach to metadata-based dispersed data management systems, community-based monitoring protocols, and the coordinated reporting of ecosystem status and trends. Major reports on biodiversity and land-use change were produced in partnership with a variety of agencies.

3.2 Research

Environment Canada and Health Canada scientists published hundreds of reports, papers, book chapters, articles, and manuscripts on CEPA-related subjects during 2000-01. This impressive body of work appeared in books and scientific journals that are available in libraries and from the publishers. The following sections provide an example of the types of research initiatives under way and their key contributions in 2000-01. Refer to the CEPA Environmental Registry for more information on research activities.

Monitoring and Research

Environment Canada Research Institutes

National Water Research Institute

  • conducts a comprehensive program of research and development in the aquatic sciences

Wastewater Technology Centre

  • develops improved wastewater treatment technologies
  • develops clean technologies

Environmental Technology Centre

  • coordinates the federal-provincial National Air Pollution Surveillance Network
  • studies air emissions from mobile and stationary sources
  • conducts research on pollution measurement and remediation

St. Lawrence Centre

  • works to support the St. Lawrence Vision 2000 Project to protect and conserve the St. Lawrence River ecosystem

National Wildlife Research Centre

  • studies the impact of toxic substances on wildlife

Meteorological Services of Canada

  • studies the levels and movements of pollutants in the atmosphere

3.2.1 Hormone-disrupting Substances

CEPA 1999 requires both Ministers to conduct research on hormone-disrupting substances. A significant amount of research is under way, particularly to identify substances that are not highly persistent, but are still widespread in the environment (e.g., substances in industrial and municipal effluents, agricultural runoff, natural estrogens in plants, and pesticides). Even at low levels, they can affect growth, development, or reproduction of organisms in Canadian ecosystems.

A key program to assess these substances is the Endocrine Disrupting Substances Strategy, being led by the five natural resource departments (Environment Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Health Canada, and Natural Resources Canada). In 2000-01, the National Water Research Institute ran a workshop to establish a national agenda on the scientific assessment of endocrine-disrupting substances. This work has resulted in a federal research agenda on the scientific assessment of these substances in the Canadian environment that has strongly influenced the direction of Canadian research on this issue within the departments, academia, and industry. (The proceedings, executive summary, and several manuscripts from the workshop were published in a special issue of the Water Quality Research Journal of Canada, 36(2): 169-346 (2001).)

What Are Hormone-disrupting Substances?

Hormone-disrupting substances, also referred to as endocrine-disrupting substances, interact with the hormone systems of many species, adversely affecting growth, development, or reproduction.They can disrupt normal function in several ways:

  • by acting like a natural hormone and binding to a receptor, causing a similar response by the cell;
  • by binding to a receptor and preventing a normal response; and
  • by interfering with the way in which natural hormones and receptors are synthesized or controlled.

The National Water Research Institute continued to develop and apply methods for screening the effects of endocrine-disrupting substances on aquatic ecosystems. Key activities in 2000-01 included:

  • a project in New Brunswick to identify the role of waste streams from pulp mills;
  • field studies in southwestern Ontario to investigate the potential for agricultural animal wastes to enter Great Lakes waterways and for exposure of fish;
  • successful application of toxics identification evaluation methods to isolate and identify chemicals with potential to alter endocrine systems (several compounds were identified in municipal effluents); and
  • evaluation of methods to screen for the effects of endocrine-disrupting substances in the environment.

The National Wildlife Research Centre developed two methods that will now be used for the systematic detection and assessment of certain endocrine-disrupting substances in birds. A bioassay was successfully used to determine the estrogenic and anti-estrogenic properties of a number of different environmental contaminants in chicken and herring gull embryo cultures.

Environment Canada's Atlantic Region coordinated a three-year study that determined the endocrine-disrupting potential of agricultural pesticides. This study, funded under the Toxic Substances Research Initiative, found no effects that could positively identify endocrine disruption. Although fish populations in intensive agricultural areas were similar to those in reference areas, physiological and developmental effects were detected that could be related to agricultural activities.

3.2.2 Toxic Substances Research Initiative

Launched in 1998, the Toxic Substances Research Initiative is managed by Health Canada and Environment Canada. The key objective is to enhance the knowledge base needed to define and reduce the risk of adverse effects of toxic substances on Canadians and their environment. The initiative enhances existing research partnerships and fosters new alliances between government and non-government researchers across Canada. Priority research areas are cumulative effects, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), metals, endocrine-disrupting substances, and air quality.

In 2000-01, 97 research projects were funded: 77 were renewed from previous years, and 20 are new one-year projects. Most (72%) are to be completed by March 31, 2002, while the rest were completed by March 31, 2001. Examples of current projects include the following:

  • Assessment of neurotoxic effects in a First Nations community exposed to PCBs (project #299);
  • Field study of physical and chemical evolution of emissions from a smelter and power plant (project #153);
  • Respiratory inflammatory response to ozone exposures in asthmatic children and adolescents (project #275);
  • Impact of wood combustion on human exposure to pollutant emissions (particulate matter, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons [PAHs], volatile organic chemicals, and carbon monoxide) (project #213);
  • Chemical and ecotoxicological assessment of the impact of marine tailings disposal (project #130); and
  • Endocrine-disrupting effects of persistent organochlorine pollutants in free-ranging Pacific killer whales (project #327).

3.2.3 Other Research Programs

Environment Canada and Health Canada manage and participate in numerous research projects every year throughout Canada. Although it is not possible to describe all of them, the following provides examples of the types of research under way throughout Canada in 2000-01:

  • Wildlife Contaminants Exposure Model - The National Wildlife Research Centre delivered the final version of the Wildlife Contaminants Exposure Model to the Centre for Environmental Assessment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The model is a user-friendly program and database for computing exposure (as daily intake rates of contaminants per unit body weight) in selected wildlife species. The Environmental Protection Agency will manage the beta-testing and the future, free distribution of the final product.
  • Metal Releases to the Environment - Scientists at the National Water Research Institute are using a combination of laboratory and field studies to evaluate the mechanisms controlling the attenuation of metals and arsenic at four mine sites in Ontario and Manitoba. Active and abandoned mines are the largest point source of metal releases to the environment. Chemical and mineralogical analyses of tailings and aquifer material have been completed to evaluate the mass and form of metals and arsenic accumulated along the groundwater flow path.
  • Distribution of Persistent Organic Pollutants in the Great Lakes - The National Water Research Institute carries out annual surveys to measure the occurrence and spatial distribution of POPs in the Great Lakes, including Lake Erie and the western corridor extending from the Detroit River through Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River. Samples are analyzed for a suite of toxic substances, including heavy metals, PAHs, organochlorine pesticides, PCBs, and contaminants of emerging interest, including brominated flame retardants and chlorinated paraffins.
  • Innovative Cleanup Technologies - Innovative technologies for contaminated site remediation were researched by the Environmental Technology Centre, including the Organics Destruction Process with co-funding from the National Research Council, a chelant/solvent extraction process, and a form of Microwave-assisted ProcessTM. Another process first developed at Queen's University - the Two-Phase Partitioning Bioreactor - was also further developed with specific application towards removal of certain organic compounds, including PAHs, from contaminated soils. Other research includes working with lignins to reduce hexavalent chromium and developing a new technology for arsenic removal.
  • Off-road Vehicle Emissions - Scientists at the Environmental Technology Centre provided exhaust emissions field-testing expertise and unique prototype instruments in a collaborative project with the City of Houston and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop a test methodology for conducting emissions testing of off-road vehicles. A general test procedure was developed to measure the exhaust emissions from off-road vehicles while the vehicles were operated under normal in-service conditions. Using this procedure, many different vehicle types were tested, including fire trucks, construction equipment, industrial lawnmowers, street sweepers, and vacuum trucks.
  • Stationary Source Emissions Sampling - The Environmental Technology Centre conducted stack sampling, in support of inventory development and strategic options planning, to evaluate toxic and greenhouse gas emissions from a variety of sources. This work involved measuring emissions from three active landfills in Calgary, waste incineration at conical burners in Newfoundland, mercury from landfills, volatile organic compounds from stationary and area sources, and fine particulate matter and priority pollutants from federal heating plants in the National Capital Region.
  • Studies of Polar Chemistry in the High Arctic- When the sun rises over the Arctic in March after nearly six months of darkness, unexpected chemical reactions are triggered in the atmospheric boundary layer and at the snow's surface. These reactions can have wide-ranging implications for the global atmosphere and climate and include release of compounds such as nitrogen oxides from the snow surface, the scavenging of ozone by bromine compounds, and conversion of gaseous mercury to more readily deposited particulate forms. In an effort to better understand these reactions, Environment Canada organized the Alert 2000 Study at Alert, Nunavut, from February to May 2000. More than 30 scientists from government agencies and universities in Canada, the United States, France, Italy, Germany, and Japan monitored changes in air and snow chemistry before, during, and after the polar sunrise event, using sophisticated methods such as mass spectrometry and laser-induced fluorescence. Snow physics measurements were also made. The results of this study were presented at the December 2000 meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

3.3 State of the Environment Reporting

Periodic state of the environment reporting is done as part of the ‘Vision for Federal State of Environment (SOE) Reporting in Canada' under the five natural resource departments. Environment Canada contributes reports as well as coordination and support for this work. Indicators, reports, data, and tools are housed or referenced through the State of Canada's Environment Infobase.

The latest bulletin in Canada's National Environmental Indicator Series, The Environmental Sustainability of Canada's Agricultural Soils, was published in spring 2000. It presents indicators of human activity, environmental condition, and societal response related to agricultural soil sustainability. The report indicates that agriculture will be more sustainable if the application of nutrients is in balance with crop requirements and when the risks of soil erosion are reduced through improved agricultural practices. In addition, the energy consumption indicators were updated.

Work was completed on the report Tracking Key Environmental Issues in March 2001. The report covers trends related to Environment Canada's priority issues and explains where further research and data are needed. Intended for a broad public audience, the report highlights the latest changes in air quality, acid rain, freshwater quality and use, toxic contaminants in wildlife, species at risk, and natural areas, as well as climate change and severe weather. (The report was released in May 2001.)

Two State of the Environment Reports were completed: The State of Municipal Wastewater Effluents in Canada and Nutrients in the Canadian Environment. Each report, developed under the federal government's Vision for State of the Environment Reporting, is based on a science assessment led by Environment Canada. The State of Municipal Wastewater Effluents in Canada highlights the status and trends of the release of municipal wastewater effluents in Canada. These releases, which include both sanitary sewage and stormwater discharges, are the largest sources of human-related pollution, by volume, to Canadian waters. The report shows that municipal wastewater effluents contribute to a number of ecological, economic, and human health impacts in Canada. Refer to Section 7.1 of this report for more details on nutrients.

The Sustainability Community Indicators interactive software package was released in June 2000. It is designed to help communities develop indicators, monitor their progress towards sustainable development, and facilitate the exchange of indicator-related information. Currently, the Quality of Life Reporting System of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, housing indicators from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and the National Environmental Indicators Series are available through the software package. An Internet version is under development.

3.4 Information-gathering Guidelines

As required by CEPA 1999 section 47, the Minister published the Guidelines for the Use of Information Gathering Authorities under Section 46 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 in April 2001. These Guidelines are intended to improve the consistency and effectiveness of the information-gathering process for the purposes of conducting research, creating an inventory of data, formulating objectives and codes of practice, issuing guidelines, or assessing or reporting on the state of the environment. They outline the factors and options that will be considered by the Minister before issuing notices requiring information.

Guidelines/Codes of Practice

3.5 National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI)

The NPRI is the only legislated, nationwide, publicly accessible inventory of its type in Canada. It provides Canadians with information on pollutants being released to the environment from facilities located in their communities. It tracks on-site releases of pollutants to air, water, and land; off-site transfers in waste; and off-site transfers for recovery, reuse, recycling, and energy recovery. The data collected are used in conducting research, formulating environmental objectives and codes of practice, issuing guidelines, or reporting on the state of the environment. The NPRI is published annually and available online. Canadians can search for pollutants in their community by typing in the first three digits of their postal code.

Highlights of the 1999 NPRI Report

  • The NPRI was expanded to include an additional 73 substances - 424 facilities submitted 621 reports on these substances.
  • A total of 2190 facilities reported on the 245 listed substances.
  • More NPRI substances are being recycled and used for energy recovery (1 080 951 tonnes total) than are being released to air, land, and water (327 695 tonnes total).

The 1999 NPRI Report was published in December 2000. In February 2001, the government announced $22.9 million in funding to expand the NPRI to help meet commitments made in the Canada-U.S. Air Quality Agreement and the federal government's Clean Air Agenda. The NPRI will expand in 2002 to include precursors of ground-level ozone and components of smog such as nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, sulphur dioxide, particulate matter, fine particulate matter, and carbon monoxide. The number of industrial facilities reporting pollutant emissions is expected to rise from 2190 in 1999 to more than 7000 by 2005. The government is continuing to improve the user-friendliness of the NPRI.

National Pollutant Release Inventory
GuidelinePublishedWork in progress
Water qualityammoniainorganic fluorides, aluminum, mercury, nonylphenol and its ethoxylates, nitrates/nitrites, phosphorus
Sediment qualitydioxins and furansnonylphenols and its ethoxylates
Soil qualityn/anonylphenols and its ethoxylates, dioxins and furans, selenium, uranium
Tissue qualitymethylmercury, dioxins and furansn/a

3.6 Environmental Quality Guidelines

Environment Canada participates in the development of Canadian environmental quality guidelines in cooperation with the CCME. These guidelines are widely used across federal, provincial, and territorial governments and in over 45 countries to assess the status and trends of environmental contamination in water bodies and for managing toxic substance risks in the environment. Guidelines are developed for all media (water, sediment, soil, and tissue) and resource uses, including drinking water quality, recreational water quality, protection of aquatic life, agricultural uses (irrigation and livestock watering), and land uses (agricultural, residential, commercial, and industrial). A compendium of all Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines, containing over 1000 pages of guidelines, is available in hard copy and CD-ROM formats.

In 2000-01, four new guidelines for water, sediment, and tissue were finalized. In the same period, 11 other guidelines were under development.

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