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ARCHIVED - CEPA Annual Report for the Period April 1996 to March 1997

CEPA Part I: Environmental Quality

Research and Monitoring

Part I, Section 7, authorizes the Minister to:

  • Establish environmental monitoring stations;
  • Collect and publish data on environmental quality;
  • Conduct research and studies on pollution control and environmental contamination;
  • Formulate pollution control plans; and
  • Publish information on the state of the Canadian environment.

The following six Environment Canada science institutes undertake research that is related to CEPA.

Environmental Technology Centre (ETC)

During the 1996-97 fiscal year, the Centre continued to coordinate the operations of the National Air Pollution Surveillance Network, dealing with ambient air quality by:

  • Preparing and distributing quality control/assurance guidelines to the Network;
  • Measuring acid aerosols;
  • Maintaining an extensive ambient air toxics sampling network; and
  • Publishing an annual report of air quality in comparison to the National Air Quality Objectives for the year 1993.

Other initiatives undertaken by the Centre during the 1996-97 reporting period include:

  • Witnessing of the emission tests at the Cape Breton Municipal Solid Waste Incinerator;
  • Witnessing the compliance tests on the refining kettles and reverberatory furnace at the Canada Metal secondary lead smelter;
  • Development of a method for sulphur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO) and oxides of nitrogen (NOX)emissions in support of the Guidelines for Stationary Gas Turbines and Reciprocating Engines;
  • Development of a sampling method for measuring methane leaks from natural gas distribution and transmission stations; and
  • Distribution of an Auditing and Witnessing Guide for Inspectors.

The Centre also tests vehicle emissions. During 1996-97, the Centre’s laboratory measured emissions from diesel engines and various alternative fuels. As well, the Centre improved methods to measure complex and hazardous chemicals such as poly nuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and ozone-depleting substances. Research on technologies that prevent and control spills of hydrocarbons and other hazardous chemicals was also performed.

The Centre helped to develop regulatory Reference Methods to measure toxic substances, and implemented associated quality assurance programs. For example:

  • The Centre also licensed a company to use the patented Microwave-Assisted Process (MAPTM );
  • Completing two Reference Methods, two Analytical Methods for chemical and biological testing, and one Reference Method on quality control/assurance; and
  • Selecting methods for the benzene in gasoline regulation.

Wastewater Technology Centre (WTC)

The Composite Correction Program assists in optimizing the performance of water and sewage treatment plants. Work conducted at plants in Ontario and Atlantic Canada demonstrated the ability to meet discharge objectives without the need for expansion, by transferring skills to plant operations and management staff. On the basis on this program, the Department of National Defence has expanded its wastewater optimization program.

The Centre also undertook various other studies, including:

  • The biological treatment of sediments from Thunder Bay contaminated with PAHs, PCBs, dioxins and furans;
  • Guidelines for quality control and field practice for contaminated sediment treatment;
  • An in situ approach to degrade chlorinated compounds and operate a facility that uses photo-oxidation to degrade chlorinated compounds in extracted groundwater;
  • Demonstration of a self-sealing, self-healing barrier, known as the EcoBarrier, at a Falconbridge site in Northern Ontario. The barrier is being applied as a cover for sulphidic mine tailings and prevents the acid leaching of metals from contaminating the environment;
  • Investigations on the occurrence of lead in mini-blinds; and
  • Investigation of in situ sulphide-reducing treatment that removes copper, lead and other metals from groundwater.

The Centre is developing an innovative technology to extract and destroy PCBs (and other chlorinated organics) in soil (and other contaminated material). The technology uses a surfactant to remove the PCBs and a proprietary technology to destroy the extracted compounds. The Centre is also examining bio-slurry reactors to remediate soils and sediments contaminated with PAHs. The reactors rely on physical, chemical and biological processes to degrade contaminants. These closed reactors can also be used to evaluate genetically modified micro-organisms designed to treat contaminants.

Canadian Clean Technology Centre (CCTC)

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

  • 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 chemicals; and
  • The recovery and regeneration of industrial cleaning solutions that will extend their useful life.

Hydrology Research Institute (NHRI)

During 1996-97, the Institute started a program on indicators of ecological effects in river ecosystems. The effects of pollutants on simple or complex food chains are measured in an artificial stream as well as the effects of changes in nutrients or contaminants on bottom-dwellers. Stable radioactive isotopes are used for determining contaminant pathways.

The Institute completed a study of organic contaminants in the Great Slave Lake ecosystem. This study concluded that the influence of the Slave River on contaminant loading and biomagnification is significant. The River is an additional source of organochlorines and PAHs to the Lake. The Institute continues to concentrate its analytical expertise on the fate and transport of substances on the Priority Substances List in aquatic ecosystems. Current work includes development of a mechanism for removal of amines and other contaminants in natural wetlands.

National Water Research Institute (NWRI)

During 1996-97, the Institute concentrated on unraveling the mechanisms causing reproductive problems in fish exposed to effluents from pulp and paper mills, and steel mills. Although the specific compounds responsible for reproductive dysfunction are unknown, comparisons to estrogens suggests that pulp mill effluents act differently. Recovery in reproductive performance downstream of some pulp mills indicates that process and treatment changes can eliminate the responsible compounds. Short-term reproductive tests are being developed to help identify the specific process or treatment changes.

Bioassays for measuring the induction of the egg-yolk protein vitellogenin in fish were used to screen effluents from pulp mills and petroleum refineries for the presence of these estrogen mimics. Bioassays are also being developed to assess the immuno-toxic effects of pure chemicals and industrial effluents in fish. Further headway was made in the identification of the agents responsible for the induction of elevated liver detoxification enzymes in fish. The Institute also completed a reference program in the Fraser River on the sediments and bottom-dwelling community.

The St. Lawrence Centre

Under the joint federal-provincial action plan, St. Lawrence Vision 2000, the mass balance of some 100 chemical contaminants has been established. Also the analytical procedures for trace metals and organics have been improved. Bioassays have been developed that determine genotoxicity and teratogenicity in municipal and industrial discharges and are now being made more efficient and cost effective. Another bioassay uses trout hepatocyte for various sublethal parameters. Work is also proceeding to develop environmental indicators using the physical characteristics of bottom-dwellers. The chemical contamination of six species of fish is also being studied.

Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS)

The National Wildlife Research Centre, together with the regional offices of the Canadian Wildlife Service, have been monitoring the long-term trends of contaminants in seabird eggs on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts since the late 1960s. In 1996, seabird eggs from six colonies in the Quebec and the Atlantic Regions were collected. The Herring Gull Monitoring Program continues to track declining long-term trends of contaminants in the Great Lakes. The long-term trends of PCBs in Lake Ontario herring gull egg data fluctuate and are, at least partially, due to weather-related dietary changes. Herring gulls eat more fish during cold winters and, therefore, have higher PCB concentrations in their eggs the following spring. Based on the 1988-1995 National Wild Foods Survey, Health Canada recommended that waterfowl in Canada are safe to eat.

The impact of pulp mill contaminants on aquatic wildlife in the Fraser and Columbia River Basins of B.C. have been determined by using swallows and ospreys as indicator species. High levels of chlorinated substances in bald eagles in the Strait of Georgia were related to the poor breeding success of a sub-population near a Kraft pulp mill. Other work on monitoring selenium and cadmium levels in scoter from Quebec for evaluation as a wild food is nearing completion. Baseline data were collected on contaminants in bald eagles in Placentia Bay and seabird eggs from the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The data will be used to assess future impacts of the Voisey’s Bay Nickel Smelter and Refinery at Argentia and raising of the Irving Whale, respectively.

Other investigations include:

  • Effects of historical use of DDT in Okanagan orchards using the robin as an indicator;
  • Possible feminization and other effects of organochlorines in reproductive organs of mink and otter from Nova Scotia and British Columbia watersheds;
  • Impact of pulp mill effluents and oil sand run-off on the hormonal alterations and immuno-competency of birds in Alberta;
  • Snapping turtles and tree swallows at various sites on the Great Lakes;
  • Comparative laboratory studies showing that the common tern, which is declining in some areas of the Great Lakes, is much more sensitive to environmental extracts of endocrine disrupting substances than the herring gull;
  • The effects of PCBs and PAHs on mudpuppies and the great blue heron in the St. Lawrence; and
  • Measurements of PAH metabolites in bile of wild species (amphibians, birds, and small mammals).

The Centre is investigating the effects of persistent organic compounds on the immune function and hormone levels of common terns and herring gulls and the cause of feminization in roseate terns nesting in some areas along the Atlantic coast. An ecological risk assessment of PCB contamination in an Atlantic Canada watershed predicted severe impacts on mink survival and loon reproduction. An international study on the distribution of organochlorine in polar bear fat has shown high PCB levels in polar bears from the Arctic Ocean near Prince Patrick Island in the Canadian Arctic. Additionally, an ongoing survey indicates a wide range of mercury accumulation in the liver and kidneys of free-living loons. High levels of mercury in loons, and their preferred prey (yellow perch), have been found in Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia.

The Centre provided the scientific basis for banning the use of lead shot for migratory game bird hunting in all National Wildlife Areas and for waterfowl in wetlands across Canada until 1999 when the ban will apply everywhere. The Centre is now playing a major role in its implementation. Research is continuing to assess levels of lead in American woodcock, which will determine if the ban is to be extended to upland bird hunting. Levels of lead in woodcock are highest in the Atlantic Region.

Climate and Atmospheric Research Directorate

Research and monitoring continued toward a greater understanding of toxic substances and international air pollution. With respect to toxic substances, investigations included:

  • Measurement and modeling of toxic substances in the Canadian atmosphere, as well as their deposition to other environmental media;
  • Method development for the measurement of toxic substances; and
  • Improvement in the understanding of sources of toxic substances to Canada.

Canada is particularly vulnerable to the effects of international air pollution by virtue of its large area and corresponding exposure to air masses from many parts of the globe. Such atmospheric transport brings toxic substances, ozone-depleting substances and chemicals implicated in the creation smog, acid deposition and climate change. Investigations of issues affected by international air pollution include:

  • Measurement and modeling efforts regarding tropospheric ozone;
  • Assessment of emission controls for atmospheric compounds associated with smog;
  • Assessment of measures to control acid deposition;
  • Measurement of atmospheric compounds associated with climate change;
  • Modeling of aerosols to determine their impact on climate change;
  • Improving meteorological models for contaminant movement through the atmosphere; and
  • Improving understanding of the sources of atmospheric pollutants.

Objectives, Guidelines and Codes of Practice

Section 8 requires the creation of a wide range of non-regulatory tools, including guidelines and codes for environmentally sound practices, and objectives setting levels of environmental quality. Considerable effort is given to the development of such instruments, which provide industries and regulators with recommendations on the reduction of emissions, effluents and wastes.

New non-regulatory instruments that will appear shortly in the Canada Gazette Part I include:

  • Code of Practice for the Reduction of Fluorocarbon Emissions from Refrigeration and Air Conditioning;
  • Code of Practice for the Reduction of Halon Emissions in the Practices of the Fire Protection Industry; and
  • Ambient air quality objectives for carbon monoxide and hydrogen fluoride.

Federal-Provincial Working Group on Air Quality Guidelines and Objectives

The Working Group of the Federal Provincial Advisory Committee, consists of environment and health representatives from both federal and provincial agencies. It published a Protocol for the Development of National Ambient Air Quality Objectives Part 1: Science Assessment Document and Derivation of the Reference Level(s), which outlines the process used to review and evaluate the science. Part 2: Rationale Document and Derivation of the Air Quality Objective(s) is under preparation. It describes how the science is utilized in making the recommendations. These Protocols will result in a formalized process for reviewing scientific information, and will improve the scientific credibility of air quality objectives.

The scientific assessment for hydrogen fluoride was published and that for carbon monoxide completed. The Working Group continued the scientific reviews for particulate matter of both less than ten micrometres and less than 2.5 micrometres, as well as total reduced sulphur compounds and nitrogen dioxide. These assessment documents will form the basis for new or revised air quality objectives. The health and vegetation reviews of the impact of ground-level ozone for the Science Program on Oxides of Nitrogen and Volatile Organic Compounds (NOX /VOC Science Program) have been peer-reviewed and will form the basis for developing recommendations for revisions to the ozone air quality objective by the Working Group.

Environmental Quality Guidelines and Objectives

National environmental quality guidelines (water, sediment, soil and tissue) and objectives established under Part I allow federal, provincial and territorial authorities to assess and manage environmental quality issues. This work is usually undertaken with the Canadian Council of Environment Ministers (CCME). During 1996-97, nine water quality guidelines for toxic substances were completed. Guidelines for eight other toxic substances are currently in progress. Selected water quality guidelines for the Fraser River are also being developed based on toxicity testing conducted by the National Water Research Institute.

Interim Sediment Quality Guidelines are being finalized for CCME approval. The National Water Research Institute, in collaboration with the Pacific and Yukon Region, continued to develop biological sediment quality guidelines for the Fraser River watershed during the 1996-97 fiscal year. Development of biological sediment guidelines for the Great Lakes continued.

Recommended Canadian Soil Quality Guidelines for 20 substances were published. Soil quality guidelines were also drafted for three additional substances. In addition, technical documents for copper and pentachlorophenol were published as well as technical appendices to the framework for ecological risk assessment.

National Tissue Residue Guidelines for three candidate substances targeted for virtual elimination under the Toxic Substances Management Policy have been developed and are awaiting final CCME approval. The 1987 Canadian Water Quality Guidelines are being revised to incorporate all media. Completion is expected in November 1998.

The St. Lawrence Centre published a document that provides case studies from several regions in Canada on programs that utilize the ecosystem approach for environmental management.

Environmental ChoiceTM Program (ECP)

This is Canada's voluntary eco-labelling program, which develops guidelines that 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.

As of August 4, 1995, Terra Choice Environmental Services Inc., through a licensing arrangement with Environment Canada assumed operational responsibility for the program. Environment Canada has retained broad ownership, control and management of the program and of the EcoLogoTM. As of February 1997, interim funding has ended and the program is expected to be self-sufficient.

During 1996-97, eight new guidelines were finalized and 20 sets of certification criteria developed through the Panel Review and Certification Process. Sixty applications for certification were received this year. So far, 40 have been reviewed and 33 certifications made. As a result of significant market and technological developments, five categories of guideline were revoked and six others revised. Similar revisions are scheduled for the upcoming year.

A new initiative, which has generated considerable interest, is the development of the EcoBuyer Catalogue. This is the official catalogue of EcoLogo™ products and services and has proven an effective way to increase interest in them. There is also international interest in the program, and methods for mutual recognition and equivalency are being explored.


Cooperatives Initiatives

Part I of the Act allows the Minister to enter into cooperative initiatives with the provinces and territories and with interested groups or individuals, for the betterment of the environment.

The Ontario Region led extensive negotiations on the Great Lakes Bi-National Toxics Strategy with the United States to virtually eliminate persistent, bioaccumulative toxic substances from the Great Lakes. Canada and the U.S. have accepted agreement on the final wording, and the agreement will be signed April 8, 1997.

In Atlantic Canada, mercury concentrations in precipitation were measured at Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia and St. Andrews, New Brunswick beginning in July 1996 in cooperation with the U.S. Mercury Deposition Network. Mercury concentrations in precipitation over the six-month sampling period were substantial: total annual deposition estimates indicate that over 10 micrograms per square metre per year of mercury is deposited to regional ecosystems via precipitation.

The Wastewater Technology Centre completed a three-year program demonstrating bio-solids land application technology to the Guanajuato State Water Authority in Mexico. Highlights of this project included a public education field day and preparation of draft strategy and proposal guidelines for bio-solids land application in Guanajuato State.

State of the Environment (SOE)

The State of Canada’s Environment -- 1996, Canada’s national five-year report, was tabled in Parliament in December 1996. Versions are available on CD-ROM and the Internet. A printed version is now being produced by popular demand and will be available in the fall of 1997. The 1996 report will be the last edition in the five-year series. A new approach to State of the Environment Reporting is being developed to take advantage of:

  • Scientific assessments for issues of concern;
  • New technologies for integrating and disseminating information; and
  • Partnerships that share the reporting.

Canada uses bulletins to report regularly on a national set of environmental indicators. Seven indicator bulletins were published in 1996:

  • Updates for Energy Consumption;
  • Climate Change;
  • Canadian Passenger Transportation;
  • Urban Water, Municipal Water Use and Wastewater Treatment;
  • Stratospheric Ozone Depletion;
  • Urban Air Quality; and
  • A New Acid Rain Indicator.

All are accessible on the Internet. Other indicators are being developed, notably for:

  • Biodiversity;
  • Urbanization; and
  • Sustaining Canada’s forests, agricultural soils, and marine resources.

A multi-phased initiative is also underway to refine a framework and indicators for urban sustainability indicators, and to incorporate these into a computerized tool that will help local governments and communities assess and monitor their progress towards sustainable development. In addition, a pilot study to test the application of sustainability indicators for regional decision-making was completed in 1996. Progress toward development of a national water quality index continued with CCME.

There is continuing demand for the National Ecological Framework for Canada to help integrate information about ecosystems across Canada. The application and use of this framework was enhanced in 1996 by the release of CD-ROM and Internet versions (see Green Lane below). Digital eco-zone, eco-region and eco-district maps and their related data sets are now available. In addition, maps were completed which will help the Commission for Environmental Cooperation promote a common vehicle for understanding continental environment and resource issues.

There are now over 100 organizations involved in the approximately 85 monitoring sites of the National Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network. A directory of sites has been prepared along with a listing of the goals, objectives and deliverables for the sites. The centerpiece of ecological monitoring and assessment is the annual National Science Meeting, which, in January 1997, brought together over 300 participants to discuss research findings and explore how these sites could be integrated for broad ecosystem assessments.

Green Lane

Environment Canada has established an environmental information network on the Internet 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, in particular, its CEPA-related endeavours. CEPA-related information such as state of the environment data, the National Pollutant Release Inventory, pollution prevention activities, releases 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. A listing of publications produced during 1996-97 can be obtained by contacting the CEPA Office.

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