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

CEPA Part VI: Ocean Dumping

Though by world standards the Canadian marine environment is relatively uncontaminated, Canada’s territorial waters do have some contamination problems, especially in harbours, estuaries and near-shore areas. Environment Canada regulates the disposal of substances at sea and meets its international obligations under the London Convention 1972 by means of a system of permits under Part VI of the Act. Disposal at sea is permitted only for non-hazardous substances and where it is the environmentally preferable and practical alternative. The majority of the material disposed at sea is dredged material, which must be moved to keep shipping channels and harbours clear for navigation and commerce.

Permits for Ocean Dumping

Each application for disposal at sea is evaluated separately to determine if a permit will be issued. Permits typically govern timing, handling, storing, loading, placement at the disposal site, and monitoring requirements. Over the past year, 92 permits were issued for the disposal of an estimated 5.2 million tonnes of material. This quantity reflects the amount approved for disposal as opposed to the actual quantity disposed of at sea. Disposal activities are still ongoing for many permits issued. No applications were rejected in the past year.

Quantities Permitted and Permits Issued Nationally, 1996-97
MaterialQuantity (Tonnes)Permits IssuedPercent of QuantityPercent of Permits
Fish Waste***34,221431%47%


Quantities Permitted and Permits Issued Regionally, 1996-97
MaterialAtlanticQuebecPacific and
Yukon Region
Prairie and Northern
Fish Waste28,731345,49090000

Forecasts for 1997-98

In the Atlantic and Pacific Regions, the number of permits for dredging is expected to remain stable. In the Quebec Region, maintenance dredging is expected to decline slightly because of spending reductions. No dredging applications are expected in the Prairie and Northern Region. For fisheries waste, the number of permits issued is expected to increase slightly as some plants reopen, but quantities will remain low because of the depleted fish stocks.

Disposal Site Monitoring

Disposal site monitoring is an essential component of the Ocean Disposal Program and serves to provide feedback to the permit application review and help verify that our regulatory controls are adequate. Monitoring data may also guide further research. Monitoring was undertaken last year at 15 sites along three coasts, and a compendium is now produced annually summarizing these activities.

Research to Support Ocean Dumping Regulations

Bioassays are becoming standard assessment tools to evaluate the effects of contaminants in the marine environment. Three new sediment bioassays to evaluate trace chemical concentrations on crustacean mortality, sea urchin reproduction and fluorescence from photo-luminescent bacteria have been developed. In addition, the U.S. protocol to evaluate bioaccumulation using a clam species, Macoma sp., is being used. Guidance to aid in the interpretation of these bioassays is being developed to ensure they are applied consistently. A pollution gradient study is under way to examine effects resulting over decreasing concentrations of pollutants from a single source. Results from the initial work of this study indicate that naturally present toxicants in sediments, such as ammonia, need to be considered when assessing results.

International Activities

The Parties to the London Convention 1972 completed a three-year amendment process to update the Convention and address immediate and long-term disposal-at-sea issues by adopting the 1996 Protocol. The Protocol is open to ratification and Canada intends to ratify it as soon as possible. The renewed CEPA will be updated to reflect these changes.

Proposed Amendments to the Ocean Dumping Regulations

During 1996-97, work has continued on the proposed new environmental assessment procedures and standards that better account for effects on the marine environment. In January 1997, cross-Canada consultations took place on cost recovery to be carried out through the Financial Administration Act. When the renewed CEPA comes into force, the following amendments will be introduced:

  • A tiered testing approach to evaluate materials for ocean disposal;
  • New screening levels for chemical parameters and sediment bioassay procedures; and
  • Incorporation of the Waste Assessment Framework of theLondon Convention 1972.
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