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ARCHIVED - CEPA Annual Report for the Period of April 1997 to March 1998

CEPA Part I: Environmental Quality

Part I provides the main authorities under which the Department conducts scientific research, monitoring and publication, including the State of the Environment Report. Part I also includes the obligation to develop and publish Guidelines, Objectives, and Codes of Practice.

Environmental Data and Research

The following Environment Canada institutes undertake general scientific research that is related to CEPA. Scientific research specific to different parts of the Act, such as toxic chemicals, is highlighted in the appropriate section of this report.

Environmental Technology Centre (ETC)

During 1997-98, the Centre continued to coordinate the operations of the National Air Pollution Surveillance Network, which measures ambient air quality, through the following activities:

  • preparing and distributing quality assurance and control guidelines to the Network;
  • measuring acid aerosols and fine particulate matter;
  • maintaining an extensive ambient air toxics sampling network; and
  • publishing an annual report of air quality in comparison to the National Air Quality Objectives (1994).

With respect to stationary sources, during the 1997-98 reporting period, activity at the Centre included:

  • witnessing the compliance tests on emissions at the Cape Breton Municipal Solid Waste Incinerator;
  • providing guidance on performance sampling of the Halifax airport incinerator retro-fitted with an afterburner;
  • witnessing the compliance tests on the refining kettles and reverberatory furnace at the Canada Metal secondary lead smelter;
  • developing a method to measure gaseous emissions from stationary gas turbines and reciprocating engines;
  • distributing an Auditing and Witnessing Guide for Inspectors; and
  • developing quality assurance and control procedures and technical guidance on stationary source sampling procedures.

The Centre also tests vehicles and off-road mobile sources for exhaust emissions. During 1997-98, exhaust emissions were measured from diesel engines in light-duty trucks, buses and ocean-going vessels and from various alternative fuels. A project was also initiated to measure exhaust emissions from in-flight jet engines. As well, methods were improved for measuring complex and hazardous substances such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), PCBs and ozone-depleting substances. Research on technologies that prevent and control spills of hydrocarbons and other hazardous chemicals was also performed.

The Centre developed, or helped to develop, regulatory reference methods to measure toxic substances, and implemented associated quality assurance programs. For example, the Centre:

  • validated and approved a reference method using the patented MAPTM (Microwave Assisted Process) technology that reduces use of toxic solvents and saves energy;
  • completed two reference methods for biological testing, three for chemical testing, and one for quality assurance and control;
  • selected methods for the proposed sulphur in gasoline regulation; and
  • revised the sampling reference method for dioxin and furan emissions.

Wastewater Technology Centre (WTC)

This Centre contributes technical expertise to several specific areas of CEPA. For example, the Centre supported research into endocrine disrupting substances in municipal wastewaters through the study of selected treatment technologies in various sewer networks. The protocols for the Environmental Technology Verification Program were developed and tested and will be used in the verification process. This program provides validation and independent performance claims for environmental technology. Research on conventional and biotechnological solutions to the remediation of contaminated sediments, soils and groundwater continued.

Canadian Clean Technology Centre (CCTC)

This Centre focuses on the development and implementation of cost-effective technologies and alternative processes for reducing waste, optimizing resources and improving production efficiency including:

  • the recovery and re-use of process wastewater without chemical treatment;
  • alternative solvent extraction processes;
  • ion exchange and absorption in process streams that recover specific substances; and
  • the recovery and regeneration of industrial cleaning solutions that will extend their useful life.

National Hydrology Research Institute (NHRI)

At this Institute CEPA-related research during 1997-98 was related specifically to nutrients.

National Water Research Institute (NWRI)

The National Water Research Institute conducts a comprehensive program of research and development in the aquatic sciences. During 1997-98, the Institute continued its research focus on endocrine disrupting substances and organized a workshop on this emerging issue to establish research priorities. The Institute developed and validated methods for the measurement of natural and synthetic hormones in effluents and receiving waters. Samples collected at 10 municipal sewage plants indicate that natural and synthetic hormones are detectable at low concentrations (nanograms per Litre) in Canadian effluents. This is similar to what has been observed in other countries. An inventory of government and academic research on endocrine disrupting substances conducted in Canada was compiled and priorities for further scientific investigations were identified.

Additionally, methods for evaluating endocrine disrupting effects are being developed and applied. These include:

  • a yeast assay that evaluates potential binding to the estrogen receptor, which is used to identify estrogenic compounds in municipal and agricultural effluents;
  • bioassays for the induction of the egg-yolk protein, vitellogenin, in fish, which are used to screen for estrogen mimics in effluents from pulp mills, petroleum refineries, and contaminated sites in Hamilton Harbour;
  • a goldfish bioassay, which is used to determine the major pulp mill streams that cause reproductive problems;
  • an in vitro assay employing trout liver cultures, which is used to test fractions of refinery effluent, pulp mill effluent, and suspected inducers of estrogenic activity; and
  • fish bioassays, which are used to detect immunotoxic effects at contaminated sites in Hamilton Harbour.

A joint research project with industry examined reproductive problems in fish exposed to effluents from pulp and paper mills. This project focussed on:

  • studying internal waste streams from a series of pulp mills in order to isolate those responsible for depressed steroid hormone levels in fish after exposure to the final effluent;
  • monitoring the impact of process changes on the potency of the effluent; and
  • following the impacts of the effluents on fish in the Ottawa River.

The assessment of the impact of process and treatment changes in pulp and paper mills on wild fish downstream of discharges at Kapuskasing and Smooth Rock Falls in Ontario is also continuing. Collaborative work continued on investigating the mechanisms of hormonal disruption, more specifically by concentrating on the physiological changes in the ovaries and the liver of fish. Analytical work also continued on determining the historical contamination levels at Jackfish Bay in Lake Superior in order to better understand effects observed today.

Research is also continuing on the sources and impacts of urban non-point sources of pollution and the means of preventing or remediating such impacts. For example, highway runoff affects receiving water quality causes a variety of toxic responses in fish and may require remediation through improved stormwater management practices. The occurrence and levels of metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were studied. Results showed that the metal concentrations are high and may be responsible for the observed toxicity. Acute toxicity in the winter months seems to be associated with the use of road salt. The latter results are being incorporated in the environmental risk assessment of road salt, which is on the second Priority Substances List.

Two reviews were completed on techniques for estimating bioconcentration, bioaccumulation and the octanol-water partition coefficient (Kow) of substances, as well as their biodegradability. The reviews provide the background to support the application of bioconcentration factor and biodegradability tests for regulatory purposes under CEPA.

The St. Lawrence Centre

The focus of the St. Lawrence Centre is the St. Lawrence Vision 2000 Action Plan to protect and conserve the St. Lawrence River ecosystem. Under this Plan, the mass balance for approximately one hundred substances in the St. Lawrence River was determined in order to estimate the relative contributions of sources to the river. A project to monitor the quality of the water in the St. Lawrence at Quebec City was completed and provided data on the concentrations and loadings of various substances. Analytical methods were developed and validated for organophosphorous pesticides and triazines as well as for trace metals in the surface water. In addition, a new technique to extract pesticides and herbicides which eliminates the use of dichloromethane, a CEPA toxic substance usually required for extraction, was developed. The zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorha) was used as a bioindicator for the bioaccumulation of trace metals in the St. Lawrence.

Long-term monitoring of mercury and PCB contamination of suspended matter in the Lake Saint-François region is proceeding. Following the dredging operation to remove contaminated sediments from the St. Lawrence downstream from the Cornwall, Ontario and Massena, New York industrial region, Environment Canada operates a network of six sites to monitor suspended matter and verify the beneficial effects of removing this active source of contamination.

Bioassays have been developed to determine genotoxicity and teratogenicity in municipal and industrial discharges and are now being made more efficient and cost effective. Also, another bioassay which uses trout liver was developed to measure various sub-lethal parameters and to screen for endocrine disruption.

National Wildlife Research Centre

This Centre, in collaboration with the regional offices of the Canadian Wildlife Service, has been working to identify and understand the impact of toxic substances on wildlife since the late 1960s. At that time, gross effects due to large-scale release of contaminants into the environment were prevalent. Three decades later, high levels of PCBs are still present in the eggs of common terns in the St. Lawrence. Osprey eggs recently collected in the south Okanagan valley and the upper Fraser River of British Columbia contain levels of DDE, a breakdown product of the pesticide DDT, which are associated with improper embryo development and eggshell thinning. Similarly, egg shells of black terns from Ontario and Quebec are still thinner than those from uncontaminated areas.

New findings during 1997-98 show that:

  • in the bald eagle population along the north shore of Lake Erie contaminant burdens in eggs have dropped dramatically over the last 20 years and the number of nests has increased from three in 1980 to 17 in 1997;
  • herring gulls breeding on Lake Superior lay smaller eggs and fledge fewer chicks than those nesting on the lower Great Lakes because of prey availability, rather than contaminants. However, contaminant levels in their eggs are higher after a cold winter when these gulls tend to migrate to the lower Lakes;
  • ptarmigan collected in northern Quebec have cadmium levels in kidneys and liver that are very high;
  • collaborative research with scientists from the United States suggests that the immune function of fish-eating birds from contaminated Great Lakes colonies is impaired and that there has been no improvement in the past five years;
  • high levels of mercury in common loons in Atlantic Region affect the ability of adults to nest and raise young and adversely affect the behaviour of their chicks. Preliminary results in Quebec Region also show relatively high levels of mercury in loons;
  • similar patterns of PCB metabolites were found in humans from northern and southern Quebec and polar bears from northern Quebec, but concentrations were much higher in polar bears. These metabolites are believed to interfere with thyroxin and Vitamin A transport in blood and studies are continuing to determine whether the concentrations of the hydroxy-PCBs are high enough to affect this transport; and
  • a novel mixed chlorine/bromine containing compound was identified in seabird eggs from the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of Canada, but was absent from the Great Lakes. All evidence points to a natural source, perhaps marine bacteria. Concentrations were higher than PCBs in Pacific Ocean storm petrel eggs. This is the first reported instance of a naturally-occurring halogenated compound which accumulates in higher organisms. Until now, it had been assumed that only man-made halogenated compounds were capable of this.

Contaminant levels continue to decline in the Fraser and Columbia River Basins, suggesting the 1991 implementation of chlorine substitution at pulp mills continues to reduce the bioavailability of dioxins in local food chains. However, bald eagles breeding near a British Columbia Kraft pulp mill appear to be affected by inadequate prey availability acting in concert with high levels of dioxin-type contaminants. There is also some indication that British Columbia tree swallows are exposed to pulp mill effluent through the food chain.

There were also a number of other projects conducted, including:

  • molecular methods to develop bio-markers for endocrine disrupting substances in field studies;
  • immunotoxicity of PCBs in polar bears;
  • linkage of recent population declines in arctic ducks to exposure to metals;
  • compilation of an interactive electronic database of reptile and amphibian toxicology information aimed at relating concentrations of specific substances to amphibian deformities and population decline; and
  • incorporation of the bioaccumulation of PCBs in birds into a herring gull lifecycle bioaccumulation model.

The results of six years of research on contaminants in polar bears, seabirds and game birds were included in The Canadian Arctic Contaminants Assessment Report and the International Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, State of the Environment Report.

Atmospheric Environment Service

The CEPA-related research interests of the Service are in the levels and movements of pollutants in the atmosphere. This includes data acquisition, through monitoring, and data storage for use in models that apply to Canada and that can be extrapolated to, and included in, global models.

With respect to toxic substances, research included:

  • development of analytical methods for PCBs;
  • planning for the next phase of the Integrated Atmospheric Deposition Network;
  • collaboration on regional measurements in many areas of the country;
  • improving the global model (MEDIA) by including a new soil module;
  • investigating lead deposition to the Great Lakes using a regional model (BLFMAP); and
  • starting the development of a global model for mercury.

The Research Data Management and Quality Control System (RDMQCS), a computer software package developed by Environment Canada, was refined to provide uniform quality control of many different types of environmental measurement data, for example, ozone, atmospheric mercury, airborne toxic chemicals, and acid rain data. Those data sets, after processing through the RDMQCS, were then added to the National Atmospheric Chemistry Database. That database is used to track changes in the concentrations of acids, persistent organic pollutants, oxidants and suspended particulate matter in air and precipitation, thereby allowing assessment of the effects of these atmospheric contaminants on Canadian ecosystems and populations, and the means to measure the efficacy of current and future pollutant emission controls. Refinements were also made to the Regional Smog Model, which allowed it to be combined with weather forecasts to predict smog levels on a day-by-day basis. The model predictions will be used to issue smog alerts in various areas of Canada.

Work was initiated on a unified air quality prediction model. This model will allow scientists to predict, with increased accuracy, the atmospheric concentrations of many different pollutants at the same time, e.g. nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, ozone, and particulate matter. Ultimately, the model will provide a scientific basis for determining the most effective industrial emission control strategies needed to protect the Canadian environment, and will improve the predictive capability for issuing warnings of pollution episodes that threaten public health.

Monitoring of acid rain continued through the Canadian Air and Precipitation Monitoring Network. Data from this network have been, and continue to be, used to determine where lakes and forests in Canada are at risk from acid rain, and to evaluate whether Canadian and U.S. emission control programs are adequate to reduce acid rain and its associated ecological impacts.

State of the Environment

The State of Canada’s Environment – 1996, was printed in 1997. This national 1996 report is the last edition in the five-year series. A new approach to reporting to Canadians on the state of the environment is being developed to take advantage of:

  • policy-driven, science-based assessments related to priority issues and regions;
  • new technologies for integrating and disseminating information; and
  • partnerships in government-wide reporting.

Canada reports regularly on a national set of environmental indicators, through publication, in hard copy and on the State of Canada’s Environment Infobase web site (, of indicator bulletins on key environmental issues. The national set is designed to track trends in the state of the environment and progress towards sustainable development. Six bulletins in the National Environmental Indicator Series were published during the reporting period, namely:

  • Stratospheric Ozone Depletion;
  • Climate Change;
  • Toxic Contaminants in the Environment: Persistent Organochlorines;
  • Sustaining Marine Resources: Pacific Herring;
  • Canadian Passenger Transportation; and
  • Sustaining Canada’s Forests: Forest Biodiversity.

Other issues of national significance for which indicators are being developed, include:

  • urbanization;
  • sustaining agricultural soils and marine resources; and
  • biodiversity.

A framework and indicators for community sustainability have been developed as part of a multi-phased initiative to develop and implement an interactive software package that will help local governments and communities assess and monitor their progress towards sustainable development. Pilot studies continued, with the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME), to test the application of a prototype for a national water quality index.

Environment Canada continues to coordinate, capability upgrading, application and use of the National Ecological Spatial Framework, in response to a growing demand for its use. New developments this year included:

  • revised and more user-friendly digital versions of the framework for all regional and national maps;
  • a completely revised database of ecological characteristics for all levels of the framework;
  • a new draft map at the eco-province level;
  • a northern circumpolar map version for use in Northern Ecosystem Initiatives; and
  • improved access to the information through the State of Canada’s Environment Infobase web site.

The Department also participated in a project by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation to develop a North American Ecological Framework. Techniques and concepts adopted in the project benefited from the Canadian models which had already been developed. The new North American framework, published in English, French and Spanish, is designed to promote the understanding of continental environment and natural resource issues and greater cooperation among its scientists and policy makers.

There are now over 142 partners involved in the Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network (EMAN). This is a national science network of about 100 sites across Canada characterized by long-term multi-disciplinary environmental research and monitoring activities. The past four years have involved "building" the network, by establishing the principles of long-term ecological monitoring and by enrolling partners to participate in the Network. With this process, for the most part complete, the EMAN Coordinating Office has now undertaken a program audit and peer review to help guide the future of the Network. The annual Network National Science Meeting brought together over 300 participants from across Canada to discuss research findings and explore new directions for cooperation and partnership in ecological and monitoring activities. The EMAN web site ( serves as a means for communicating and promoting programs as well as a tool for training, observation reporting and data management.

Objectives, Guidelines and Codes of Practice

Environmental Quality Guidelines and Objectives

National environmental quality guidelines developed for water, tissue, sediment and soil are mandated under Section 8. Such guidelines allow federal, provincial and territorial authorities to assess and manage environmental contamination issues. Environment Canada, working with the CCME, undertakes the development of the guidelines.

Canadian Water Quality Guidelines for chromium, arsenic, bromacil, carbaryl, chlorpyrifos, deltamethrin, and glycols were completed and published during 1997-98. Guidelines for molybdenum, thallium, PAHs, phenols, and chlorinated benzenes were developed in 1997-98 and will be published in 1998-99. Guidelines for two antisapstains were developed as part of the Fraser River program. Guidelines for reactive chlorine, inorganic fluoride, copper, silver, and selenium were initiated.

New interim sediment quality guidelines for five metals, PCBs (total PCBs and Aroclor 1254), 13 individual PAHs, DDT, toxaphene and five organochlorine pesticides were finalized during 1997-98.

Soil quality guidelines were developed for five substances; barium, nickel, thallium, DDT, and PCBs. The scientific assessment for total petroleum hydrocarbons in soil was initiated.

Work was also started on an integrated compendium of Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines that will include environmental quality guidelines for all media and resource uses including drinking water quality, recreational water quality, aquatic life protection, agricultural uses (irrigation and livestock watering), soil quality (agricultural, residential/parkland, industrial land uses), sediment quality, tissue quality and air quality.

Health-based Tolerable Daily Intakes and Concentrations as well as Tumorigenic Doses, produced as a result of information reviewed for assessment of substances on the Priority Substances List, were published by Health Canada. These are useful in the establishment of guidelines or standards for environmental media.

Federal-Provincial Working Group on Air Quality Guidelines and Objectives

This Working Group of the Federal-Provincial Advisory Committee consists of environment and health representatives from both federal and provincial agencies. It published science assessments for hydrogen fluoride and carbon monoxide. The science assessment for particulate matter, both less than 10 microns as well as less than 2.5 microns, was completed and will be published during the next reporting period. Science assessments for Total Reduced Sulphur compounds and Ground-Level Ozone underwent peer review.

Environmental ChoiceTM Program (ECP)

The Environmental ChoiceTM Program is Canada's voluntary eco-labelling program that develops certification criteria, including guidelines, for different types of products and services. These allow consumers to identify products and services that significantly reduce the burden on the environment. The EcoLogoTM is used to identify those products and services which meet stringent environmental criteria.

TerraChoice Environmental Services Inc., through a licensing arrangement with Environment Canada, has assumed operational responsibility for the Program. Environment Canada has retained broad ownership, control and management of the Program and of the EcoLogoTM. The Program is now self-sufficient.

During 1997-98, 15 sets of certification criteria for different products and services were developed. One hundred and thirty-three applications for certification were received during that time. All applications were reviewed and 75 certifications were made. As a result of significant market and technological developments, six categories of guidelines were revoked and five others revised. Similar revisions are scheduled in the future.

The EcoBuyer Catalogue is the official catalogue of certified products and services. The catalogue continues to attract considerable interest and a second edition was published in February 1998. There is also international interest in the program, and methods for mutual recognition and equivalency are being explored with other countries. To date, Mutual Recognition Agreements have been signed with the U.S. Green Seal Program and the Green Mark Program of Taiwan.

Green Lane

Environment Canada has established an environmental information network, the Green Lane, on the Internet (Environment Canada) to help Canadians make informed decisions and take action on environmental issues and sustainable development. The Network is comprised of eight World Wide Web servers located in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Burlington, Toronto, Hull, Montreal and Dartmouth. Anyone with access to the Internet may log onto the Green Lane and get up-to-date information on Environment Canada’s activities and its CEPA-related endeavours. CEPA-related information such as State of the Environment data, the National Pollutant Release Inventory, pollution prevention activities, releases, Priority Substance assessments, and enforcement can be found on the Green Lane. As well, regional sites contain updates on numerous region-specific CEPA-related activities, such as the Fraser River Action Plan, the Great Lakes Remedial Action Plan, the St. Lawrence River Action Plan and the Atlantic Coastal Action Plan. In general, national information is made available through the Department’s home page which offers links to the home pages of regional offices.

CEPA-Related Publications

Under Part I the Minister may authorize the publication of information related to the research and monitoring activities. See a list of publications for 1997-1998

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