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

CEPA Part II: Toxic Substances, Hazardous Wastes, and Fuels

Toxic Substances

Part II of the Act provides the legislative and regulatory authority to reduce the risks posed by new and existing substances in Canada, and to implement some of the international agreements to which Canada is a party. Part II contains provisions to determine which of these substances should be assessed, provisions to assess them and provisions to implement control measures applicable to all aspects of the life cycle for any assessed as toxic under the Act. A substance is considered toxic "if it is entering or may enter the environment in a quantity, or concentration, or under conditions:

  • having or that may have an immediate or long-term harmful effect on the environment;
  • constituting or that may constitute a danger to the environment on which human life depends; or
  • constituting or that may constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health."

Efforts under this Part influence Canadian contributions to international initiatives of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the North American Agreement for Environmental Cooperation that relate to the assessment and management of toxic substances.

Part II also contains authorities to regulate the import and export of hazardous wastes as well as the composition of fuels.

New Substances

Domestic Substances List (DSL)

The Domestic Substances List (DSL) is an inventory of more than 23,000 substances manufactured in, or imported into, Canada on a commercial scale, and was based on substances deemed to be present in Canada between January 1984 and December 1986. Substances not on this List are considered new to Canada. New substances must be assessed to determine whether or not they are toxic or capable of becoming toxic as defined above. The DSL was first published in May 1994 in the Canada Gazette Part II. Following assessment of new or transitional substances, (i.e., those substances imported into, or manufactured in Canada during the period from January 1987 and July 1994 - the latter being the date on which the New Substance Notification Regulations came into effect), the List is amended from time to time. In 1997-98 four amendments to the List were published in the Canada Gazette Part II, adding 350 substances. In addition, 98 substances that received confidential identifiers in accordance with the Masked Name Regulations were added to the List.

Non-Domestic Substances List (NDSL)

There are over 43,000 substances on the Non-Domestic Substances List that are known to be commercially available elsewhere in the world but not in Canada. When these substances are manufactured or imported to Canada for the first time, less detailed information is required than for a substance that is new to Canada and not listed on the Non-Domestic Substances List. The initial List appeared in the Canada Gazette Part I on January 26, 1991 and was subsequently amended in 1996. In 1998, the non-confidential portion of the List was republished in a format consistent with the Domestic Substances List. The initial List of January 26, 1991 and all subsequent revisions appeared in the Canada Gazette Part I on January 31, 1998. There are now 43,797 substances recognized as non-domestic. A revision to the confidential portion of the List was also published in the Canada Gazette Part I on March 28, 1998. This revision added a further 107 substances which received confidential identifiers in accordance with the Masked Name Regulations.

Progress on New Substances Notification Regulations

The New Substances Notification Regulations prescribe the information required from manufacturers and importers, before new substances can be manufactured in or imported into Canada.

Chemicals and Polymers

These regulations came into effect July 1, 1994 and require manufacturers and importers to supply specified information on new commercial substances, including chemical identity; toxicological and environmental effects data; manufacturing, processing and use data; and the volumes proposed for manufacture and import.

The Government may require additional information or testing, may impose controls, or ban the manufacture or import of a substance if it suspects the substance is toxic. Assessments were completed on 736 transitional substances and 509 new substances during 1997-98. These reviews resulted in eight substances having controls of various kinds imposed on them.

Biotechnology Products

An amendment to the New Substances Notification Regulations was published in Canada Gazette Part II on March 5, 1997 with an implementation date of September 1, 1997. This amendment requires manufacturers and importers of biotechnology products to supply prescribed information for the purposes of an environmental and human health assessment. In addition, the amendment, along with the regulations under four Agriculture and Agri-Food Acts, firmly establishes the legal basis to implement the federal framework for regulating biotechnology products in Canada. As a consequence, all biotechnology products in Canada are being assessed as to whether they are toxic, prior to release into the environment. Assessments under CEPA were completed on 10 new biotechnology products during 1997-98.

Good Laboratory Practice

This program is designed to ensure that testing data provided in support of the requirements of the New Substances Notification Regulations are consistent with the OECD Guidelines for the Testing of Chemicals and the OECD Principles of Good Laboratory Practice. The major activity during 1997-1998 was the presentation of a database, to data evaluators of new substances under the Regulations, of all Good Laboratory Practice inspections conducted in the world during the past 10 years. This information, together with other agreed procedures, will allow evaluators to ascertain quickly the underlying quality of all health and safety data submitted to them. The first Canadian facility to provide genetic toxicology tests for purposes of the Regulations was inspected in 1997 and was found to be in compliance with interim program requirements. The complete suite of testing requirements in the New Substance Notification Regulations is now available from Canadian testing facilities.

Internationally, joint Good Laboratory Practice inspections were performed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, negotiations on agreements with a number of countries continued, and the revised OECD Principles of Good Laboratory Practice were published.

Toxic Substances Management Policy (TSMP)

The federal government's Toxic Substances Management Policy was announced in Parliament on June 2, 1995. This policy provides a science-based framework for the management of toxic substances. The key management objectives in the policy are:

  • virtual elimination of releases to the environment of toxic substances that are persistent and bioaccumulative and are present in the environment primarily due to human activity (Track 1); and
  • management of other toxic substances and substances of concern throughout their life cycles to prevent or minimize their release into the environment (Track 2).

Following an assessment, 13 substances were proposed for Track 1 management or virtual elimination of their release to the environment. Those substances are dioxins, furans, hexachlorobenzene, PCBs, aldrin, chlordane, dieldrin, endrin, DDT, heptachlor, mirex, and toxaphene and short-chain chlorinated paraffins. The notice proposing the Track 1 designation of the 13 substances was published in March 1997 in Part I of the Canada Gazette. The 60-day comment period that is required following publication of the notice expired in May 1997. The comments received were subjected to considerable study. The action that the Minister plans to take in regard to the 13 candidate substances will be recorded in the 1998-99 CEPA Annual Report.

An Interdepartmental Forum on the implementation of the policy has been struck to ensure consistency in implementation. Virtual elimination objectives, associated issues and opportunities and departmental strategies to achieve the objectives for Track 1 substances have been prepared. Domestic action has already been taken to severely limit or ban the production, use or release of Track 1 substances in Canada. However, given that they are still used elsewhere in the world, they continue to enter the Canadian environment from foreign sources through long range transport. The formal identification of substances for virtual elimination supports on-going initiatives including:

  • the Strategic Options Process (see below);
  • Federal-Provincial Task Force on Dioxins and Furans;
  • regional initiatives such as the Canada-Ontario Agreement respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem and the St. Lawrence Vision 2000;
  • national efforts through the CCME; and
  • international efforts such as the negotiations under UNEP on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Protocol on POPs and Protocol on Heavy Metals.

As a follow up to the adoption of the federal policy, a national Policy for the Management of Toxic Substances was signed by CCME in January 1998. This national policy, which provides for a unified approach to the management of toxic substances, is consistent with the federal policy and has adopted the same criteria for the selection of substances for management under Track 1.

Priority Substances

CEPA requires the establishment of the Priority Substances List (PSL) which contains those substances which merit priority for assessment to determine whether they are toxic or capable of becoming toxic, as defined under CEPA.

Progress on the First Priority Substances List (PSL 1) - The Strategic Options Process

Of the 44 substances on PSL1, Environment Canada and Health Canada concluded that 25 were toxic. A Strategic Options Process to determine control options was adopted and 14 Issue Tables were established (see table below). Four Issue Tables, i.e., dry cleaning, solvent degreasing, benzidine/3,3'-dichlorobenzidine and electric power generation, have completed their reports, the recommendations were accepted by the Ministers and work is underway to implement the recommendations of regulations and environmental performance agreements. Four Issue Tables, i.e., refractory ceramic fibres, steel manufacturing , base metals smelting and metal finishing, have completed their reports, and the recommendations will be submitted to the Ministers in 1998-99. The remaining six Issue Tables are still underway and are expected to complete their reports during 1998-99.

The Chlorinated Wastewater Issue Table was delayed in its presentation to the CEPA Federal-Provincial Advisory Committee because of changes in provincial information. However, work on finalizing the letter of intent, controlling or eliminating the use of chlorine as a wastewater disinfectant, should start in the fall of 1998.

With respect to human health, the impact of recent mechanistic data on the human health risk assessment of dichloromethane and more recent data on exposure of the general public to diethylhexyl phthalate were assessed and the results made available to the Issue Tables. Assessment of new data on chlorinated paraffins relevant to the health risk assessment was completed, and the results of surveys of organotins in drinking water supplies were published.

International health assessments on four PSL 1 substances, specifically 1,2-dichloroethane, 1,1,2,2-tetrachloroethane, 3,3'-dichlorobenzidine and methyl methacrylate, were published by Health Canada and two others, hexachlorobenzene and chloroalkyl ethers, finalized for publication.

PSL 1 Toxic Substances: 1997-1998 Activities
Established Issue TablesPSL 1 Toxic Substances
1-Substances
Benzidine/3,3'-dichlorobenzidine*
Refractory Ceramic Fibres (23)**
Chlorinated Paraffins (8)
1,2-dichloroethane (2)
Dichloromethane (11)
Bis-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (14)
Hexachlorobenzene (16)
  • 1,1,1-trichloroethane*
  • 1,2-dichloroethane
  • 3,3'-dichlorobenzidine
  • Benzene
  • Benzidine
  • bis(chloroethyl) ether*
  • Chloromethyl methyl ether*
  • Chlorinated paraffins
  • Chlorinated wastewater effluents
  • Creosote impregnated wastes
  • Dichloromethane
  • Dioxins*
  • Effluents from pulp & paper mills using bleach*
  • Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate
  • Furans*
  • Hexachlorobenzene
  • Hexavalent chromium compounds
  • Inorganic arsenic compounds
  • Inorganic cadmium compounds
  • Inorganic fluorides
  • Oxidic, sulphidic, soluble inorganic nickel compounds
  • PAHs
  • Refractory ceramic fibres
  • Tetrachloroethylene
  • Trichloroethylene
2-Sectors
Dry Cleaning (24)*
Solvent Degreasing (24, 25)*
Wood Preservation (10, 12, 16, 17, 18, 22)
Iron and Steel (4, 12, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22)**
Metal Finishing (17, 19, 21)**
Base Metal Smelting (18, 19, 21)**
Electric Power Generation (17, 18, 19, 20, 21)
3-Federal-Provincial Advisory Committee
Chlorinated Wastewater Effluents (9)
* Completed and accepted by Ministers
** Completed for submission to Ministers
* Already regulated


Progress on Ozone-Depleting Substances (ODS) Regulations

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, signed in September 1987, is designed to prevent a global environmental and health problem from reaching the crisis stage. Canada subsequently has put regulations in place enabling us to meet our commitments under this treaty. Canada has met its commitments for halons, carbon tetrachloride, CFCs, methyl chloroform, methyl bromide and hydrochloro-fluorocarbons (HCFCs). Consumption of methyl bromide has been frozen and will be reduced by 25 percent in 1998 (except for quarantine and pre-shipment applications and for feedstock use). Canada froze consumption of HCFCs beginning January 1, 1996 at the agreed level. Total consumption of HCFCs will be reduced by 35 percent in 2004; 65 percent in 2010; 90 percent in 2015; and will be eliminated in 2020.

Office of the Auditor General Report on the Ozone Protection Programme

On December 2, 1997, the Office of the Auditor General presented its report on an audit of the federal government’s ozone layer protection program. The chapter, entitled Ozone Layer Protection - The Unfinished Journey, acknowledges the success of the Montreal Protocol, Canada’s full compliance with the Protocol requirements and Environment Canada’s efforts to coordinate the harmonization of federal and provincial regulations.

The Auditor General indicated that, although some progress has taken place, we are still decades away from the resolution of this issue. The Auditor General also presented recommendations to improve the federal-provincial coordination of the program as well as the inspection and enforcement activities. It also urged Environment Canada to address the issue of long-term management and safe disposal of surplus CFCs and halons for both federal facilities and nation-wide.

Updated National Action Plan for the Environmental Control of Ozone-depleting Substances and their Halocarbon Alternatives

On January 29, 1998, CCME endorsed an updated National Action Plan for the Environmental Control of Ozone-depleting Substances and their Halocarbon alternatives. The National Action Plan was originally published by CCME in 1992. The updated Action Plan now covers all Ozone-depleting Substances and some halocarbon alternatives such as HFCs, which, although not Ozone-depleting, need to be controlled because of their high global warming potential. The new Action Plan incorporates new tasks and measures for the prevention, reduction and elimination of emissions of these gases. Furthermore, it addresses issues raised by the Office of the Auditor General Report including the development of a strategy to address the ultimate phase-out and disposal of CFCs and halons in Canada.

The Second Priority Substances List (PSL 2)

Priority Substances List 2

  • Acetaldehyde
  • Acrolein
  • Acrylonitrile
  • Aluminum chloride, aluminum nitrate, aluminum sulphate
  • Ammonia in the aquatic environment
  • 1,3-Butadiene
  • Butylbenzylphthalate (BBP)
  • Carbon disulfide
  • Chloramines
  • Chloroform
  • N,N-Dimethylformamide (DMF)
  • Ethylene glycol
  • Ethylene oxide
  • Formaldehyde
  • Hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD)
  • 2-Methoxy ethanol, 2-Ethoxy ethanol, 2-Butoxy ethanol
  • N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA)
  • Nonylphenol and its ethoxylates (NPE)
  • Phenol
  • Releases from primary and secondary copper smelters and copper refineries
  • Releases from primary and secondary zinc smelters and zinc refineries
  • Releases of radio nuclides from nuclear facilities (impacts on non-human species)
  • Respirable particulate matter less than or equal to 10 microns
  • Road salts
  • Textile mill effluents

The PSL2, which includes 25 substances, was published in Part I of the Canada Gazette on December 16, 1995. Environmental and human health assessments for all substances are underway. In order to promote consistency in approaches and to seek public input, Environment Canada published a document entitled Administrative Policy And Process For Conducting Environmental Risk Assessments For Priority Substances in September 1997, which, together with updates on the status of each assessment, is also available on the Environment Canada Priority Substances web site (http://www.ec.gc.ca/substances/ese/eng/psap/psap.cfm). In addition, an information letter was published to advise the public of the status of each of the environmental assessments. This follows the publication (hard copy and website) of the methods used in conducting environmental risk assessments i.e., Environmental Assessments of Priority Substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act Guidance Manual (1997). Similar documents are under preparation by Health Canada.

Data collected through authority of Section 16 of CEPA on uses, exports, imports, and environmental releases of many of the PSL2 substances were analyzed for use in the assessments. Environmental Resource Groups have been established for each priority substance, consisting of scientific and technical experts from industry, academia and federal and provincial government departments, to actively participate in the assessment process and to review all environmental assessments and supporting documents. Problem formulations, which outline the scope of each assessment, were prepared for environmental assessments and published in hard copy and on the program website for public information and comment. Literature searches and preparation of background documentation for the environmental and health risk assessments for all PSL 2 substances were completed.

Environmental assessments have been completed for four substances, acrolein, 1,3-butadiene, BBP, and HCBD. Environmental reviews have been initiated for acrylonitrile, carbon disulphide, and chloroform. Health Canada has set up an external review mechanism for reviewing human health toxicity assessments. Acetaldehyde, HCBD and phenol, have undergone external review and external reviews have been initiated for 1,3-butadiene, butyl benzyl phthalate, and formaldehyde.

The Quebec Region is continuing work on both the data collection as well as the assessment of the toxicity and environmental impact of aluminium salts.

For the environmental risk assessment of chloramines, the Pacific Environmental Science Centre has developed an analytical method for measuring chloramines, which was validated by the University of Waterloo. Degradation studies using surface water from British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario were completed, and toxicity studies on fish and Daphnia were conducted.

The St. Lawrence Centre in Quebec participated in the evaluation of the phytotoxicity of DMF.

The Atlantic Region is leading the assessment of textile mill effluents. Activities conducted during 1997-98 included:

  • the publication of the Problem Formulation document, providing the goals and focus of the assessment;
  • the completion of a textiles industry process description report; and
  • the field component of a study examining the aquatic toxicity of treated and untreated textile mill effluents from eight textile mills in eastern Canada;
  • a voluntary survey of processes used by textile mills conducted with assistance from the Canadian Textile Institute; and
  • effluent sampling and toxicity testing of some mills.

The National Water Research Institute initiated a collaborative research program on municipal effluents to assess the fate and distribution of nonylphenol ethoxylates, and natural and synthetic hormones in a municipal treatment plant receiving textile mill effluents. The fate of the chemicals was determined at each of the major process steps in the treatment plant and in the final effluent. The potential impacts of the effluent on fish were evaluated in the receiving waters and in the laboratory. Laboratory results showed that the effluent has the potential to cause endocrine disruption in fish. This study has been expanded into a national survey of the distribution and effects of these chemicals in municipal effluents across the country. In addition, a study was initiated on the persistence of alkylphenol polyethoxylate surfactants and their metabolites in digested sludge, which is applied to agricultural land.

The National Water Research Institute continued its research on the assessment of the impact of metal smelter emissions on aquatic ecosystems. Twelve lakes, ranging in distances from 6 to 150 kilometres from Sudbury, were studied. Metal concentrations in lake sediments were used to quantify the magnitude of the contamination and effects were assessed by studying the structure of the bottom communities in the lakes, and by determining sediment toxicity. The researchers are also studying the bioavailability of the metals in order to establish the relationships between sediment toxicity and specific metals.

Data Collection

Sections 15 through 18 allow the federal government to collect information, conduct investigations to support the assessment of existing substances, and to support the development of management options for substances considered toxic. Six surveys were completed to obtain information on commercial trade and use patterns of 20 substances and classes of substances listed on PSL2, as well as for bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, lead in gasoline, methylene chloride and tributyl tretradecyl phosphonium chloride. Fourteen submissions under section 17 were received and reviewed.

National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI)

This inventory is a national, publicly accessible database of specific pollutants released to the Canadian environment from industrial and transportation sources. The first annual Inventory was published in March 1995 reporting the 1993 releases and transfers and is available on the Internet (http://www.ec.gc.ca/pdb/npri/index.html). The report for 1994 was made available in the fall of 1996. The 1995 summary included facilities that released large quantities at low concentrations and was published in November 1997. The report is also available on the Internet. A new on-line query was developed for the 1995 report. Information required for 1996 is similar to that required for 1995. All regional offices collected and validated the data submitted by facilities within their respective areas prior to that information being included in the report. Regions also responded to enquiries from the public and media and gave training sessions. Public consultations are planned during the coming year respecting proposed changes to the Inventory.

Disclosing Information

In 1997-1998, Environment Canada received 71 requests under the Access to Information Act for information related to CEPA. Information was released, in whole or in part, for 18 of the requests. Requests were made on the following subjects:

  • CEPA inspectors;
  • correspondence concerning Bill C-74;
  • PCB waste;
  • dioxins and furans;
  • import and export of hazardous wastes;
  • sulphur in liquid fuels;
  • sulphur emissions;
  • contaminated sites; and
  • environmental compliance.

Sixty-one of the above-mentioned requests concerned the environmental compliance status of properties or facilities. Compliance with respect to all Acts administered by Environment Canada were included in the search. Information did not exist for 44 requests; documents were located for 13 requests. One request was still being processed at year-end. The remaining 3 requests were abandoned by the applicants.

Confidentiality Requests

A number of companies requested confidential status for information submitted to the 1995 National Pollutant Release Inventory. These companies were asked to support their claim for confidentiality using the criteria under the Access to Information Act. After verification, the information from the companies was protected. Under the New Substances Notification Regulations the claims for confidential identity of 98 substances were accepted and published on the Domestic Substances List in accordance with the Masked Names Regulations.

Toxic Substances Related Research

Health Canada continues to develop methods for determining both the endocrine disrupting, as well as reproductive and developmental effects, of priority contaminants. In vitro screening methods have been used to evaluate the endocrine disruption potential of an array of substances, and studies have been completed that evaluated the effects of toxic substances on male reproductive physiology. Animal studies designed to assess the relevance and significance to human health of a number of endocrine disruptor end-points were initiated. Studies have also been initiated to determine the effects of mixtures of toxic substances on reproductive development and function. A pilot study to determine the exposure of subjects from the general population living in Toronto to 29 substances through air, water and food was undertaken. Also completed was a pilot study on exposure from a variety of sources to a number of PSL2 compounds. A follow-up survey was started.

Health Canada has completed studies on the systemic effects of bis-chlorobiphenylsulfone, a persistent organochlorine, and on the interactive effects of dioxin and PCB congeners. The study of interactive effects permits the assessment of real life health risks since humans are exposed to chemical mixtures rather than individual toxicants. Research on bacterial degradation of azo-type dyes are underway. Selected bacterial species were cultured with purified dyes to determine the chemical structures that may be affected by azo-reductase in the bacteria. Research continues on the biochemical mechanisms of toxicity and physiologically based pharmacokinetics, and on the development and application of biomarkers for effects on liver, kidney and lungs.

Research continued, with funding from the National Biotechnology Strategy, into the development of transgenic mouse gene mutation assays. Such assays are capable of detecting mutations in virtually any tissue. This greatly expands the capability to study tissue-specific effects. Research was centered on the evaluation and validation of this methodology, and the linking of protocols from other, complementary, assays so that they can be performed in the same animals. It also involved the inclusion of the chemicals, acrylonitrile and hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD) to provide mechanistic data for PSL2 assessments.

The National Biotechnology Strategy also provided funding to address the harmonization of assessment methods for large-scale applications of microbe-based products used in the management of agriculture and forest resources and their impact on community health. Field operations were conducted with spray applicators to clarify issues such as product potency, off-target drift and dose calibrations generated by aircraft, development of methods to monitor health effects, and data collection on immunological responses of migrant workers exposed to ground-level bio-aerosols.

In addition, the project provided extensive technology transfer to stakeholders relating to new methods for assessing bio-particulate dose estimation, persistence, virulence, antibiotic tolerance and monitoring of indoor air quality and contamination of foodstuffs.

Health Canada conducted research to evaluate methods for the detection of chromosome imbalance (aneuploidy) in rodent cells and human populations, which resulted in:

  • optimised methods for the recovery of dividing cells from spleen lymphocyte cultures;
  • enhanced micro-dissection techniques for the production of chromosome-specific DNA probes to be used in detecting chromosome imbalance and breakage; and
  • initiation of a study of human sperm samples, from a pesticide exposure assessment study, in order to validate methods for measuring heritable aneuploidy in human populations.

Gene expression bio-markers were further validated as a rapid test, which was highly accurate in predicting tumour promotion in cell cultures and in animal tissues. The utility of this approach was again demonstrated, by using the PSL1 compound, di-n-butyltin dichloride, to show that the response of the gene for murine proliferin accurately predicted the promotion of cell transormation in vitro and the concentrations required for the promotional effect.

At the National Water Research Institute a study showed continuous release of significant levels of arsenic, mercury, lead, thallium and other metals from abandoned gold mine tailings in Goldenville, Nova Scotia. The sedimentary records show an increasing rate of release from the tailings of metals, particularly for mercury and lead. Effects downstream from the tailings field include toxicity to bottom-dwelling organisms and a loss of fish habitat. Metal concentrations in lamprey larvae and freshwater mussels were measured in the St. Lawrence River. The bulk of the metals in rivers is found in suspended particulate matter and sediments. Lamprey larvae and freshwater mussels were evaluated for their bio-monitoring potential. The results show that, under similar ecological conditions, freshwater mussels and lampreys have different metal retention rates with metal content in mussels being two to 500 times higher than in the lampreys. Lamprey larvae can be good bio-monitors for mercury and possibly for other specific metal substances.

The National Water Research Institute is also investigating the role of contaminants on the mechanisms controlling growth and development in fish. The project is focusing on unravelling the possible mechanisms whereby these contaminants may disrupt internal functions in fish. The preliminary results show impaired thyroid function in fish exposed to co-planar PCBs and deficiencies in antioxidant vitamins in fish exposed to pulp mill effluents. This work is central to the understanding of the impacts of endocrine disrupting chemicals when the effects are not expressed through the estrogen receptor.

The National Water Research Institute also continued its program for the management and remediation of groundwater contaminated by toxic substances. The effect of humic acids on the bio-remediation of soils contaminated by PAHs was studied in the laboratory. Research continued on the application of vitamin B12 to remove solvents from contaminated groundwater. An electro-spray was used to identify the unstable intermediates that are formed during the reaction and to postulate a new mechanism, which has implications in the application of the method in the field.

In British Columbia, the regional office assessed the presence of some PSL1 and PSL2 substances in the atmosphere, water, sediment, and biota of the Fraser River Basin. Results show that levels of dioxins and furans in sediment at some locations in the basin exceeded interim CCME sediment guidelines for the protection of aquatic life. Concentrations of dioxins and furans in fish tissue also exceeded interim CCME guidelines for the protection wildlife that eat fish. Some PAHs in sediments of the lower Fraser River and Thompson River, particularly in urban areas, also exceeded interim CCME guidelines for the protection of aquatic life. The likely source of the PAHs is run-off. A concerted effort has also been made to assess the impacts of pulp mill effluents on the aquatic ecosystem in the basin. This assessment is an evaluation of altered fish liver enzyme levels, wildlife reproduction and bottom-dweller community structure.

Also in British Columbia, a collaborative pilot survey was conducted on the presence of 166 contaminants, including PSL1 and PSL2 substances, in groundwater of the Abbotsford Aquifer. Levels of some PSL1 and PSL2 substances (i.e., carbon disulfide, chloroform, and 1,1,1-trichloroethane) were detected in the parts per trillion range.

In Quebec, thanks to a cooperative agreement with the private sector, it has been possible to measure the ambient concentrations of atmospheric pollutants and volatile organic compounds in the Montreal metropolitan area.

In the Atlantic Region a series of research projects were carried out, namely:

  • a project to determine the levels of persistent organochlorines and heavy metals in bald eagles breeding in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. This project will provide valuable baseline data near the proposed Voisey’s Bay Nickel Company smelter and refinery at Argentia, Newfoundland.
  • the possible impacts of PCBs on fish-eating wildlife near Five Island Lake, Nova Scotia were assessed. Mink, otter and raccoon carcasses, submitted by trappers, are being analyzed for PCB and mercury concentrations.
  • results were published of volunteer surveys of waterbirds at the Sydney Tar Ponds and Harbour, which assessed the potential exposure of birds to local contamination;
  • total gaseous mercury monitoring continued at two regional sites, Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia and St. Andrews, New Brunswick. The gaseous mercury concentrations in the Atlantic Region are close to the global average of 1.5 nanograms per cubic metre and are similar to concentrations elsewhere in eastern North America. Seasonal transport patterns vary from year to year over the region. Many possible sources contribute to the levels, including local to long range transport from Europe and North America. Preliminary studies on the evasion of mercury from soils and water surfaces indicated that gas exchange occurs over both of those surfaces. Those measurements indicated that flux is important in overall mercury dynamics. Total mercury concentrations in precipitation and wet deposition are similar in magnitude to other sites in eastern North America. Mercury concentration and wet deposition are greatest in the summer and lowest in the winter;
  • the first year of a two-year study to examine spatial and temporal patterns of mercury concentrations in yellow perch from over 40 headwater lakes in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia was completed. In 1997-98, 54 composite yellow perch samples were collected from 18 lakes; and
  • an Inventory of Anthropogenic Sources of Mercury in Atlantic Canada was completed. The total estimated mercury emissions from all Atlantic Canadian anthropogenic sources were approximately 960 kilograms per year. That represents about 6.4 percent of the 1995 national estimate of mercury emissions of 15 tonnes per year.

Hazardous Wastes

Export and Import of Hazardous Wastes Regulations (EIHWR)

During 1997, 1,251 notices for proposed exports of hazardous wastes (including 199 for PCB wastes), 6,365 notices for imports and 180 notices for shipments in transit through Canada were processed. During the same period, 37,688 manifests were received for the tracking of shipments approved under these notices.

In support of compliance and enforcement for these regulations, a database query tool was developed for ongoing measurement and tracking of compliance. This is in addition to the computerized tracking system that was implemented in 1996. Use of the query will become an integral part of compliance promotion targeted at priority companies. Related activities during fiscal year 1997-1998 were the development of a training package for Customs inspectors and provision of electronic access to the notification and manifest computerized tracking system to regional enforcement officers.

To satisfy the requirements of section 45, after receiving a notice for proposed imports, exports and transits of hazardous wastes, the names of the Canadian importer, exporter, or notifier as well as the name and origin or destination of the waste in question must be published. This information is published semi-annually in the newsletter RESILOG, which is available on the Internet at http://www.ec.gc.ca/tmb/resilog/eng/resinews.htm.

Basel Convention

The Basel Convention addresses the management of the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes in an environmentally sound manner. The ban amendment adopted at the third Conference of Parties (September 1996), prohibits, for countries that ratify it, the export of hazardous wastes destined for both recovery and final disposal from developed to developing countries. At the fourth Conference (February 1998), the Parties agreed to adopt a list of wastes and recyclables covered by the Convention (and the ban amendment) and a list of wastes and recyclables not covered by the Convention (or the ban amendment). These lists clarify the definitions of hazardous wastes and hazardous recyclable materials that were contained in the original Convention. At the fourth Conference, the Parties also decided not to amend the list of countries until the ban amendment comes into force, which requires ratification by 62 countries. Other decisions from the fourth Conference involve the extension of the mandate of the working group that is negotiating a liability and compensation protocol and the consideration of a monitoring and compliance procedure to assist Parties in implementing their obligations.

Fuels

Regulations are now in place restricting lead and benzene in gasoline and sulphur in diesel fuels. A number of initiatives were undertaken in 1997-98 that will result in regulations concerning fuels. A working group following up on the CCME Cleaner Vehicles and Fuels Task Force Report is developing recommendations on levels of sulphur in gasoline.

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