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ARCHIVED - CEPA Annual Report for Period April 2004 to March 2005

7. Controlling Pollution and Managing Waste

Part 7 provides the Minister with authorities to deal with various substances that have the potential to harm the environment or human health.

7.1 Nutrients

Nutrients are defined as substances that promote the growth of aquatic vegetation. Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus can result in excessive aquatic plant growth, depletion of oxygen, and deleterious changes in abundance and diversity of aquatic organisms. This "eutrophication" process poses a serious threat to the biodiversity and health of coastal waters in Canada as well as freshwater systems. CEPA 1999 provides the authority to regulate nutrients in cleaning products and water conditioners that degrade or have a negative impact on an aquatic ecosystem.

In 2004-05, the Great Lakes Sustainability Fund, a component of the Great Lakes Program, was used by various agencies and proponents to deliver agricultural non-point source pollution reduction programs to reduce the amount of nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen), solids, and bacteria entering watercourses. In working with agricultural producers in a Niagara River Area of Concern, eight water quality projects were implemented, reducing the amount of manure entering surface water and groundwater systems by 3081 cubic metres annually. Four conservation tillage projects were initiated to control soil erosion and improve surface water quality in a St. Lawrence River Area of Concern. This resulted in conservation practices being applied on over 600 hectares of farmland.

The Fund was also used to demonstrate cost-effective, innovative processes for enhancing the removal of nutrients from municipal wastewater treatment plant effluents. These projects led to the upgrading of three primary sewage treatment plants in the Great Lakes Areas of Concern.

7.2 Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Sources of Pollution

The Act provides authorities to issue non-regulatory objectives, guidelines, and codes of practice to help implement Canada's National Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities. These provisions are intended to supplement the authorities that exist in other federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal government laws.

7.2.1 National Programme of Action

In 1995, Canada, together with over 100 maritime nations, adopted the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities. This international, non-legally binding agreement calls on countries to develop national and regional programs of action to protect human health and prevent, reduce, and control land-based activities that threaten the health, productivity, and biodiversity of marine and coastal environments and associated freshwater systems. Canada was the first country to release a National Programme of Action in June 2000. Canada's National Programme of Action focuses on addressing problems under the broad themes of contaminants and physical alteration and destruction of habitat. The Programme has identified national and regional problems, priorities, goals and objectives, strategies and actions, and next steps for protection from marine pollution.

Activities during 2004-05 include the following:

  • Canada released a report, entitled "Protecting Canada's Coastal and Marine Environment," at the H2O Global Partnership Conference in Cairns, Australia (May 2004). The report provides an overview of local, provincial, territorial, and national programs, policies, and legislative measures to control land-based sources of contaminants and reduce habitat alteration and destruction. In addition, at the conference, Canada delivered a presentation on its experience and lessons learned in implementing its program.
  • Environment Canada's Atlantic Region released an "Atlantic National Programme of Action Team Status Report--January 2005," which describes progress made under its Action Plan 2002-06 on activities related to nutrients, sewage, and habitat destruction.
  • Regions continue to evaluate microbial source tracking techniques for identifying the origins of fecal coliform contamination in water and shellfish harvesting areas.

7.2.2 Regional Programme of Action for the Arctic

In 1998, Canada and seven other circumpolar nations of the Arctic Council developed a Regional Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities to address marine pollution issues in the Arctic.

During 2004-05, much of the focus of the Arctic Council's Working Group on Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment was centred on the development of the Arctic Council's Arctic Marine Strategic Plan. The plan was endorsed by Arctic Ministers in November 2004 and is intended to facilitate a more coordinated and integrated approach for all working groups to address the challenges of the Arctic coastal and marine environment. Canada and Iceland served as lead countries for a working group guiding the development of the strategic plan.

The Arctic Marine Strategic Plan sets out elements that recognize the importance of continued implementation of the Regional Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities. In the reporting period, Canada called upon Arctic countries to consider broadening the Regional Programme of Action to address other source categories. The plan also encouraged continued technical cooperation for the Russian Federation's activities aimed at protecting the Arctic marine environment from priority pollution sources.

7.3 Disposal at Sea

The Act includes provisions to prohibit the disposal of wastes and other matter at sea within Canadian jurisdiction, and by Canadian ships in international waters, unless the disposal is done under a permit issued by the Minister. A permit for disposal at sea will be approved only for six substances and only if it is the environmentally preferable and practical option. Incineration at sea is banned except under emergency situations. CEPA 1999 provides additional controls on disposal at sea, including:

  • a ban on the export of a substance for disposal at sea;
  • an assessment framework for reviewing permit applications, based on the precautionary principle, which must be followed (Schedule 6); and
  • a legal obligation for Environment Canada to monitor disposal sites.

There is also a legal obligation under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to conduct environmental assessments prior to issuing permits.

7.3.1 Disposal at Sea Permits

In 2004-05, 83 permits were issued for the disposal of 3.44 million tonnes of waste and other matter (see Tables 10 and 11). Most of this waste was dredged material removed from harbours and waterways to keep them safe for navigation. The number of permits issued has remained relatively stable since 1995. The quantities permitted were lower than in 2003-04 but still remain well within the range seen since the introduction of monitoring fees. Historically, the quantity permitted has been greater than the actual quantity disposed of at sea (often by 30-50%). However, with the monitoring fee for dredged material and inert, inorganic geological matter in place since 1999, the quantities permitted now more closely reflect the actual disposed quantities.

Table 10: Quantities Permitted (in tonnes) and Permits Issued in Canada in 2004-05
MaterialQuantity permitted (tonnes)Permits issuedPercentage of quantityPercentage of permits
Dredged material2 476 500*347241
Geological matter899 600*5266
Fisheries waste60 85042251
Total3 437 71183100100

* Dredged material and geological matter were converted to tonnes using an assumed density of 1.3 tonnes per cubic metre.

Table 11: Quantities Permitted (in tonnes) and Permits Issued by Region in 2004-05
MaterialAtlanticQuebecPacific and YukonPrairie and Northern
Quantity permitted (tonnes)Permits issuedQuantity permitted (tonnes)Permits issuedQuantity permitted (tonnes)Permits issuedQuantity permitted (tonnes)Permits issued
Dredged material*937 3001276 700101 475 5001500
Geological matter*0000899 600500
Fisheries waste58 450392 40030000
Total995 7505179 100132 375 661212001

* Dredged material and geological matter were converted to tonnes using an assumed density of 1.3 tonnes per cubic metre. Data accurate as of June 14, 2005.

7.3.2 Monitoring Program

As required by CEPA 1999, disposal sites are monitored to verify that permit conditions were met and that scientific assumptions made during the permit review and site selection process were correct and sufficient to protect the environment.

In 2004-05, field monitoring was conducted at 17 ocean disposal sites:

  • six disposal sites in the Quebec Region (L'Anse-à-Brillant, Port-Daniel-Est, Sainte-Thérèse-de-Gaspé, Saint-Godefroi, Gascons, and Bonaventure in Gaspésie);
  • one site in the Prairie and Northern Region (Churchill Harbour, Manitoba);
  • six disposal sites in the Pacific and Yukon Region (Thormanby Island, Five Fingers, Porlier Pass, Comox, Victoria, and Point Grey in British Columbia); and
  • four disposal sites in the Atlantic Region (Strait of Canso, Nova Scotia; Miramichi and Black Point, New Brunswick; and Mosquito Cove, Newfoundland and Labrador).

Further details can be found in the Compendium of Monitoring Activities at Ocean Disposal Sites, which is sent to permittees and submitted to the International Maritime Organization annually.

7.3.3 Regulations

In 2004-05, a Regulatory Impact Analysis and a Strategic Environmental Assessment were conducted on proposed amendments to the Disposal at Sea Regulations. These regulatory amendments would clarify the boundaries between the sea and fresh water for four major estuaries across Canada, including the Fraser River Delta, the Mackenzie River estuary, the Bras D'Or Lakes, and the Miramichi River estuary, for the purposes of application of the disposal at sea controls. These amendments will make the boundaries of the application of the law clear for those areas and thus improve the department's ability to administer and enforce within those areas. Regulations are expected to come into force during 2005-06.

Further analysis was also done on permit fees under these regulations, which are governed by the Financial Administration Act. Regulatory and other options may be pursued in 2005-06 following consultations with the broader stakeholder community.

7.3.4 Standards Development

Environment Canada participated in studies to improve the toxicity assay using echinoderms (i.e., sea stars and sea urchins), which is used to assess the quality of sediments proposed for disposal at sea and used during disposal site monitoring. This multiyear project is aimed at improving sediment porewater extraction techniques, investigating the suitability and sensitivity of several echinoderm test species, and developing an assay that uses the embryo development endpoint in a sediment contact test for use by Canada's Disposal at Sea Program.

Other activities related to standard development include an assessment of PCBs in sediment and the publication of a guidance document on the collection of west coast amphipods for toxicity testing.

7.3.5 London Convention and Protocol on Disposal at Sea

Environment Canada’s Disposal at Sea Program enables Canada to fulfil its international obligations on the prevention of marine pollution from ocean dumping. Canada has been a Party to the London Convention, which requires it to control disposal of waste at sea, monitor disposal sites, and report to the Office of the London Convention since 1976. Canada is one of the few countries credited with consistent reporting.

During 2004-05:

  • Canada chaired the annual Consultative Meeting of Parties in 2004. In 2000, Canada acceded to the 1996 Protocol to the London Convention, which is a more stringent treaty limiting the type of material that can be considered for ocean disposal. The Protocol also asks Parties to implement the precautionary approach, the polluter pay principle, and a comprehensive assessment and monitoring process that compares disposal options and looks for reduction and reuse of wastes. It is expected that this new Protocol will enter into force in 2006. In 2004-05, Canada actively promoted its entry into force at both the Meeting of the Scientific Group and the Consultative Meeting of Parties.
  • Canada contributed to a workshop on "Marine Pollution Prevention and Environmental Management in Ports in Southern and Eastern Africa". Canada provided training presentations and support for a number of African delegates to attend. A CD-ROM of the proceedings is available at
  • Canada completed, in partnership with Germany and with the assistance of a correspondence group from six other countries, "Guidelines for the Sampling and Analysis of Dredged Material for Disposal at Sea". This work was completed and approved a year ahead of the original November 2005 target date. It will be published by the International Maritime Organization and will provide countries with a design and implementation guide on how to sample and analyze sediment to ensure that only clean dredge material is approved for open water disposal.
  • Canada completed, with the Republic of Korea, a module of the London Convention international training sets on waste assessment, which will provide educational material to countries wanting to accede to the Protocol. Canada also drafted a second module of this training set. This training set will provide the basis upon which countries can develop credible permit assessment and monitoring procedures for their disposal at sea programs.

At the Consultative Meeting of Parties, Canada continued work on developing compliance procedures and mechanisms for the 1996 Protocol. The procedures will help to ensure the effectiveness of the Protocol when it enters into force. The sequestration of carbon dioxide in marine geological structures such as depleted oil and gas wells and saline aquifers was identified as an issue that would require further exploration.

7.4 Fuels

CEPA 1999 provides authorities for a performance-based approach to fuel standards and allows for a range of fuel characteristics to be regulated to reduce emissions. These regulations may distinguish between different sources of fuels or the place or time of use of the fuel. There are also provisions for regulations to establish a "national fuels mark," a trademark that could be used to promote a national standard for fuels where certain characteristics may be desirable.

7.4.1 Regulations

The proposed Regulations Amending the Sulphur in Diesel Fuel Regulations were published on October 2, 2004. The regulations will establish limits for sulphur in diesel fuel for use in off-road, rail, and marine applications.


7.5 Vehicle, Engine, and Equipment Emissions

Under the Act, the Minister has the authority to set emission standards for on-road vehicles and engines. CEPA 1999 also includes authority to set emission standards for off-road vehicles and engines, such as those found in lawn mowers, construction equipment, hand-held equipment, and recreational vehicles.

7.5.1 Regulations

The On-Road Vehicle and Engine Emission Regulations came into effect on January 1, 2004, establishing emission standards for on-road vehicles and heavy-duty engines of the 2004 and subsequent model years. The Off-Road Small Spark-Ignition Engine Emission Regulations came into effect on January 1, 2005, introducing emission standards for 2005 and later model year engines typically found in lawn and garden equipment and in light industrial and logging machines. The Off-Road Compression-Ignition Engine Emission Regulations were published on February 23, 2005, and came into effect on January 1, 2006, establishing emission standards for diesel engines typically found in construction, agricultural, forestry, and mining equipment for the 2006 and later model years.

Environment Canada continued to make progress on the development of new emission standards for specific categories of vehicles and engines, consistent with the policy set out in the Federal Agenda on Cleaner Vehicles, Engines and Fuels. Discussion documents were made available to initiate early consultations with stakeholders on the development of proposed emission regulations for marine spark-ignition engines and off-road recreational vehicles (August 2004) and on amendments to the On-Road Vehicle and Engine Emission Regulations to maintain alignment with updated standards for motorcycles (September 2004).


7.5.2 Vehicle Inspection Clinics

Environment Canada, together with over 50 partners, holds "Let's Drive Green" clinics across Canada each summer, where motorists can have checkups on their vehicles' tailpipe emissions and tire pressures. The goal of the program is to educate and engage the driving public on transportation-related air pollution and climate change issues. In 2004, approximately 7000 vehicles were tested at 43 locations.

7.5.3 Bus Retrofit Program

Environment Canada contributed funding to the Canadian Urban Transit Association to retrofit 239 urban transit buses in 15 municipalities across Canada with diesel oxidation catalysts. In addition, separate projects resulted in the installation of catalysts on 32 urban transit buses in Sarnia and Windsor and on 30 school buses in the Fraser Valley Regional District. Diesel oxidation catalysts are installed to provide a cost-efficient manner of reducing smog-forming emissions for in-use heavy-duty vehicles.

7.5.4 Scrappage Programs

Environment Canada provides financial support to seven voluntary scrappage programs across Canada. These programs, managed by local environmental organizations, offer incentives to accelerate the permanent retirement of older in-use vehicles, which typically pollute significantly more than current automobile models. The incentives include transit passes and rebates towards the purchase of a new vehicle, a bicycle, or hiking shoes. Approximately 5500 vehicles have been scrapped since Environment Canada's first involvement in these programs in 2001.

7.5.5 Emissions Testing

Environment Canada's Engine and Confirmatory Testing Program assesses whether cars and trucks and off-road and on-road vehicles and engines from the manufacturers meet their prescribed emissions certification standards. In 2004-05, 235 tests on 51 light-duty vehicles and trucks were performed to assess emissions conformity to the standards. There were also 24 tests on six off-road small spark-ignition engines and 6 tests on two off-road compression-ignition engines. During this period, Environment Canada established the capability to conduct loaded exhaust emission tests on high-speed, low-horsepower engines, such as those found in garden trimmers and chainsaws. The department continues to build capacity in order to respond to the various regulations that are part of the Federal Agenda on Cleaner Vehicles, Engines and Fuels and under the authority of CEPA 1999.

7.6 Control of Movement of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material and of Prescribed Non-Hazardous Waste for Final Disposal

The Minister has the authority to regulate the export and import of hazardous waste, including hazardous recyclable materials. The Act also provides authorities to regulate the export and import of prescribed non-hazardous waste for final disposal; to require exporters of hazardous wastes destined for final disposal to submit export reduction plans; and to set criteria that the Minister may consider in refusing to issue an export, import, or transit permit if the waste or recyclable material will not be managed in a manner that will protect the environment and human health. The Act requires the Minister to publish notification requiring information on exports, imports, and transits of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material.

7.6.1 Exports and Imports of Hazardous Wastes

During the 2004 calendar year, more than 8700 notices were processed for proposed imports, exports, and transits of hazardous wastes and hazardous recyclable materials, representing over 21 000 waste streams. The waste streams for which notices were received exhibited a variety of hazardous properties, including flammability (for compressed gases) and acute toxicity to aquatic organisms (from environmentally hazardous materials). The hazardous waste streams came from a variety of sources, which included various industrial activities, such as the leftovers from oil refining, the manufacturing of chemicals, and metal processing. During the same period, over 43 600 manifests were approved for tracking individual shipments.

In 2004, Canadian transboundary movements of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material totalled 724 493 tonnes, a decrease of slightly over 14 000 tonnes from the 2003 total. Canadian imports totalled 416 136 tonnes, down 1% from the approximately 417 368 tonnes reported in 2003. Exports decreased as well, by 4%, from 321 294 tonnes in 2003 to 308 357 tonnes in 2004. See Figure 3 for trends and Table 12 for quantities imported and exported.

Figure 3: Imports and Exports of Hazardous Wastes, 1999–2004
Figure 3: Imports and Exports of Hazardous Wastes, 1991–2004
Click to enlarge

Table 12: Hazardous Waste Management in Canada, 1999-2004
Imports (tonnes)
Exports (tonnes)

Based on the annual 2004 statistics for international transboundary movements, nearly 99% of Canadian imports came from the United States, with the remainder coming from Europe as hazardous recyclable material destined for metal recovery operations. Shipments for recycling, which reduce reliance on primary resources and benefit Canadian industry, represented more than half of all imports. Batteries, metal-bearing waste, and manufacturing residues consist of the majority of imports of hazardous recyclable material into Canada. Other hazardous waste imports included liquors from metallurgical processes and residues from oil refining destined for disposal operations.

Imports of hazardous waste for recycling were shipped to five provinces, with Ontario and Quebec continuing to receive the vast majority of all imports into Canada and with small quantities imported into British Columbia, Alberta, and New Brunswick. It is a similar story for imports of hazardous waste for final disposal, with most destined for Ontario and Quebec and with small quantities imported into British Columbia and Alberta.

7.6.2 Regulations

The proposed Export and Import of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations were published on March 20, 2004, for a 60-day public comment period. Comments received were taken into consideration in finalizing the regulations, which came into force on November 1, 2005. The regulations provide the Minister with the authorities to protect Canada's environment and the health of Canadians from the risks posed by the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes and hazardous recyclable materials through exports from and imports into Canada. They also help Canada meet its international commitment under the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, the OECD Decision of Council Concerning the Control of Transboundary Movements of Waste Destined for Recovery Operations, and the Canada-United States Agreement Concerning the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste. The regulations replaced the Export and Import of Hazardous Wastes Regulations adopted in 1992.


7.7 International Air Agreement

The Minister has the authority to address Canadian sources of pollution that contribute to air pollution in another country or violate an international agreement binding on Canada. Before using the powers in this Part, the Minister must first consult with the provincial, territorial, or Aboriginal government responsible for the area in which the pollution source is located. This consultation will determine if that government is willing or able to address the problem. The Minister may take the following action to reduce or prevent the pollution: seek Governor in Council approval to require pollution prevention planning from the source(s); recommend regulations to the Governor in Council; or issue an interim order (for emergency situations).

Although no actions were taken under these provisions in 2004-05, the next sections describe results from several international agreements respecting air pollution.

7.7.1 Canada-United States Air Quality Agreement

Canada and the United States continued to meet their commitments pursuant to the Air Quality Agreement to reduce emissions of several CEPA toxics, including sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds. In 2004-05, the governments of Canada and the United States completed a joint science assessment report on particulate matter. This report represents the first Canada-United States science assessment of an air pollution issue and provides the scientific foundation to support the development of future joint strategies to help target smog and smog-forming pollutants. This assessment will provide scientific knowledge required to determine whether to negotiate a new annex to the Air Quality Agreement to address transboundary particulate matter.

Canada and the United States announced a Border Air Quality Strategy in 2003. This initiative will increase Canada-United States cooperation to reduce cross-border air pollution by undertaking three major pilot projects. Activities under this strategy included:

  • identifying measures to reduce air emissions and address transboundary air pollution in southwestern British Columbia and northwestern Washington state;
  • exploring the development of a coordinated airshed management approach for southeastern Michigan and southwestern Ontario; and
  • exploring the feasibility of emissions trading for nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide emissions caps and cross-border trading.

The joint projects are being completed in cooperation with provincial, state, and other stakeholders. These projects are expected to serve as a foundation for developing new strategies to improve air quality and address transboundary air pollution of concern to Canadians and Americans.

7.7.2 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants was entered into force on May 17, 2004. The Convention seeks the elimination or restriction of the production and use of all intentionally produced POPs. As well, this Convention aims to minimize and, where feasible, eliminate the releases of unintentionally produced POPs, including such CEPA toxics as dioxins and furans and HCB. Under the Convention, stockpiles of these chemicals must be managed and disposed of in a safe, efficient, and environmentally sound manner.

In 2004-05, Canada developed its draft National Implementation Plan for the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, based on consultations with provinces/territories and stakeholders. The draft Plan includes a draft National Action Plan on unintentional POPs--dioxins, furans, HCB, and co-planar PCBs. A focused stakeholder consultation session on the draft of both Plans was held in February 2005 in Ottawa. The draft National Implementation Plan was made available on the Environment Canada CEPA Registry website for stakeholder and public comment in March 2005.

In October 2004, the General technical guidelines for the environmentally sound management of wastes consisting of, containing or contaminated with persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and the Technical guidelines for the environmentally sound management of wastes consisting of, containing or contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated terphenyls (PCTs) or polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs), developed under Environment Canada's leadership, were adopted by the Parties to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal. The key elements of these Basel Guidelines include provisional definitions of low POP content, the levels of destruction and irreversible transformation, and environmentally sound technologies to destroy wastes containing POPs, including PCBs.

7.7.3 United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution

Parties to this 25-year-old convention include Canada, the United States, and many European countries. The Convention aims to cut emissions of substances of concern, including CEPA toxics such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and mercury, from industrial sources (iron and steel industry, non-ferrous metals industry), combustion processes (power generation, road transport), and waste incineration. It sets limits for emissions from stationary sources and suggests best available technologies, such as special filters, scrubbers, or mercury-free processes, to achieve these limits.

In 2004-05, a review of the Heavy Metals Protocol was initiated that will inform Parties and others of the sufficiency and effectiveness of the Protocol in achieving its objectives. A plan for the review was approved and a task force established to complete the work. The expert committee reviewing chemicals for the Protocol on Persistent Organic Pollutants completed its review of two potential new candidates and continued its work in reviewing the sufficiency and effectiveness of the Protocol. Also, work was initiated on the particulate matter issue, and a working group was established to focus on the hemispheric transport of air pollutants.

7.7.4 United Nations Environment Programme's Mercury Programme

The long-term objective of the Mercury Programme is to facilitate national, regional, and global actions to reduce and eliminate anthropogenic uses and releases of mercury and mercury compounds, thereby significantly reducing the global adverse impacts on health and the environment from these toxic compounds. Canada contributes financial resources and technical expertise to the program and is engaged in a range of domestic, bilateral, and regional activities that support its goals of identifying populations at risk from mercury exposure, minimizing exposure through outreach, and reducing anthropogenic mercury emissions and releases.

In February 2005, the countries involved in the United Nations Environment Programme initiative decided to continue the global Mercury Programme. The current workplan for the program has some new activities, including the establishment of partnerships as one approach to reducing risks from mercury to human health and the environment. Partnership areas in which countries have expressed interest include coal-fired power generation, artisanal gold mining, mercury inventories, mercury-containing products, and the mercury cell chlor-alkali sector.

7.8 International Water

7.8.1 Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality

The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, created by Canada and the United States in 1972 to restore and protect the largest body of surface fresh water on the planet, provides an example to the world of how two countries can forge a commitment to restore the integrity of shared bodies of water. The Agreement's stated purpose is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem.

The Agreement requires the International Joint Commission to assess progress and assist both governments in achieving this commendable goal. The U.S. and Canadian governments, the Parties to the Agreement, must perform a comprehensive review of the Agreement after every third biennial report from the Commission. The Twelfth Biennial Report (published in September 2004) marks the beginning of the next required review process.

The report indicates that the Parties have made progress in developing and implementing best management practices to accommodate the growing pressure of human development in the basin. Knowledge of the potential impacts of climate change on the Great Lakes is improving, and results indicate that many toxic chemical releases have declined over the past decades. Research has been coordinated to understand Lake Erie's changing dynamics, including the disappearance of some fish food organisms but the resurgence of others, the invasion of aquatic species, and increases in algae to nuisance levels.

Chemical contamination continues to endanger human health and restricts the number of fish that can safely be eaten. Several adverse health effects associated with exposure to methyl mercury, a highly toxic substance, have been identified in human and animal studies. In the Great Lakes basin, people are exposed to methyl mercury almost exclusively by eating fish.

The very real threats discussed in the report have caused the International Joint Commission to urge that the governments of Canada and the United States take a precautionary approach to better face future threats and address current needs in order to enhance and protect the global treasure that is the Great Lakes.

The report can be found at .

7.8.2 United Nations Global Environment Monitoring System (GEMS) Water Programme

International water science continues to be a priority for Environment Canada. For this reason, Environment Canada hosts the United Nations GEMS/Water Programme at the National Water Research Institute. The National Water Research Institute ensures that the Programme's mandate of global water quality monitoring and assessment is carried out in ways that meet the water quality information needs of global assessments, reporting, and decision- making. Interagency linkages and collaborations continue with United Nations agencies on guidelines and indicators development, on measuring achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and on other intergovernmental commitments.

Over the past year, more than 16 developing countries have begun participating in database and monitoring activities. GEMS/Water launched GEMStat, an online searchable database, completed its fifth laboratory performance study, and published newsletters, a new Analytical Methods guide, and the State of the Global Network and Annual Report. Several training and capacity-building initiatives were carried out for Iraq and East Asia as well as with activities led by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.


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