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ARCHIVED - CEPA - Annual Report for the Period April 1993 to March 1994

CEPA Part I: Environmental Quality

Research and Monitoring

To establish fair restrictions and foster the development of new technologies to meet them, the federal government supports research and monitoring activities. It uses scientific information from these activities to verify the progress of regulations, agreements and other non-regulatory instruments. To ensure that the public has access to accurate environmental information, the Government also publishes results of these activities. All publications related to CEPA may be found in Appendix A.

CEPA Part I authorizes Environment Canada, a major science department, to undertake research on a variety of fronts. Five Environment Canada research institutes make direct contributions to CEPA. Research not related to CEPA is not reported here.

Health Canada also conducts toxicology research to identify hazardous substances and their adverse effects on health.

Environmental Technology Centre

The Environmental Technology Centre, near Ottawa, coordinates the federal-provincial National Air Pollution Surveillance (NAPS) Network. This system, which measures ambient air quality, comprises 130 monitoring stations using more than 400 instruments in 52 urban centres across Canada.

In 1993-94, the Centre provided air monitors, technical assistance, calibration materials, analytical laboratory support, data storage and dissemination, and program direction to cooperating agencies. Working with Health Canada and the Atmospheric Environment Service, the Centre monitored eight sites for acid aerosols, which are known to cause health problems.

The Centre also operates a vehicle emissions testing laboratory. During the past year, the laboratory completed a variety of projects, including

  • a joint program with Transport Canada to determine the contributions of service vehicles, auxiliary power units, taxis, aircraft engines and other sources of air pollution at airports;
  • a joint program with Stock Transport, Engine Control Systems and Natural Resources Canada to study the emissions-reduction performance of "flow-through" catalysts and diesel particulate traps on school buses; and
  • a joint program with Gaseous Fuels Injection Ltd. (GFI) to develop a natural gas fuel-injection system for new vehicles and after-market conversions.

In support of CEPA and related guidelines, the Centre also helped to develop regulatory reference methods and associated quality assurance programs to measure toxic substances. For example, the Centre

  • issued the fourth in a series of certification samples for anions and metals on air filters and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in oil, under a joint agreement with the Canadian Association of Environmental Analytical Laboratories;
  • helped develop, through the Canadian General Standards Board, revised methods to analyze sulphur in diesel fuel to support industry-government guidelines;
  • updated the CEPA reference method for vinyl chloride;
  • finished developing a quick-screening method for inspectors to test compliance with federal asbestos emissions regulations;
  • published a performance-based protocol for the real-time measurement of gaseous emissions from thermal power generating plants for CCME guidelines;
  • published amended CEPA reference methods for lead and total particulates under the secondary lead smelter regulations; and
  • completed development of a draft CEPA reference method for PCBs in a variety of environmental matrices like waste oils, soils and air.

In addition, the Centre worked on measurement programs for volatile organic compounds (VOC) and ambient air toxics. It operated the toxics air monitoring network of 30 sites and increased the sampling frequency to eight hours every two days at six sites during the summer months. The Centre provided data related to VOC implicated in ground-level ozone formation to the NOx/VOC Control Program, and successfully introduced a new method for measuring polar and biogenic VOC.

Under Section 7 of CEPA, the Centre is authorized to conduct pollution research and develop methods to control pollution. As part of this mandate, the Centre worked with private and public agencies inside and outside Canada to investigate the properties, behaviour, fate and effects of marine and non-marine oil and chemical spills.

It also undertook technology development and demonstration work on oil-spill containment booms, oil skimmers, spill-treating agents, spill modelling and remote sensing. During the year, for example, the Centre and its domestic and international partners

  • developed and tested a prototype airborne laser-based sensor to detect oil slicks;
  • developed standard protocols for testing spill-treating agents and sorbents;
  • constructed a unique testing laboratory for spill-response equipment;
  • developed technology for treating contaminated water and submitted a patent application for it;
  • licensed the analytical applications of a DOE-patented technology, the Microwave-Assisted Process (MAP(TM)), to the Hewlett-Packard Company for the largest licence signing fee ever obtained by the federal government; and
  • successfully completed the Newfoundland Offshore Burn Experiment (NOBE), a major international $7-million project to study the feasibility of burning oil slicks contained by fire-resistant booms.

Wastewater Technology Centre

Established in 1971, the Wastewater Technology Centre in Burlington, Ontario, has become the foremost Canadian facility for treatment and disposal technologies for municipal and industrial wastewater and residues.

Recently, the Centre completed a 33-month trial as the first government-owned, contractor-operated (GOCO) research and technology development facility designed to accelerate the commercialization of new technologies. Environment Canada hired an independent consultant, APOGEE Research Inc., to assess the trial results. The consultant determined that GOCO was a success and should be continued.

In 1993-94, the Centre was involved in ongoing and new projects. Researchers began work on innovative and cost-effective ways to reduce phosphorous and ammonia to very low levels in municipal sewage treatment plants, as well as to control and manage combined sewer overflows and storm water discharges. Work continued on optimizing the operation of municipal and industrial wastewater facilities, and the pilot evaluation of an innovative technique to treat pulp-and-paper wastewater was completed. New, safe methods of disposal for organic and inorganic residues were examined, as were protocols for evaluating and regulating the disposal of solidified wastes.

In addition, researchers focused on developing and evaluating new technologies to remediate contaminated sites, including destroying or removing contaminants from ground water, soils and sediments. In line with the national direction, the Centre shifted its industrial research emphasis to pollution prevention from "end-of-the-pipe" treatment technologies.

The Centre made substantial progress in several industry sectors on quantifying the use of toxics, identifying options for source reduction, in-stream recovery or recycling, and assessing the efficiency of innovative technologies. The primary focus was on the metal finishing, automotive-parts manufacturing, printing and graphic arts, textile and chemical pulp industries, and aircraft maintenance and painting facilities.

Additional emphasis was given to helping Canadian industry showcase its technology, and to facilitating technology transfers nationally and internationally, particularly with Mexico and China.

National Water Research Institute

The National Water Research Institute (NWRI), located in Burlington, Ontario, is Canada's largest freshwater research establishment. In partnership with Canadian and international freshwater scientists, NWRI conducts a national program of research and development in the aquatic sciences to examine current and emerging water-quality problems in Canada.

In 1993-94, NWRI completed assessments for substances on the first Priority Substances List (PSL1), including nickel and chromium, and continued planning for PSL2 . NWRI also addressed research priorities identified in CEPA's Priority Substances Assessment Program; continued quality assurance and control (QA/QC) and method development; and examined the effects of pulp-and-paper and mining effluents on aquatic ecosystems.

To focus the attention of the scientific community on CEPA's current science needs, NWRI developed a compendium of research needs, as outlined in the Priority Substances List (PSL) reports. To close data gaps identified in the reports, staff began studies on environmental occurrences of chlorinated paraffins, fluoride, non-pesticidal organotin compounds and aniline.

In the area of analytical QA/QC, NWRI continued to generate reference material for dioxins and furans in sediment. NWRI also conducted inter-laboratory comparison studies on PCBs and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in sediments, and optimized sample preparation procedures for PCBs and chlorobenzene in sediments. In collaboration with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), NWRI developed a method for the rapid extraction of PCBs from fish tissues.

In cooperation with DFO, Industry Canada, the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada (PAPRICAN), several pulp mills and three Canadian universities, NWRI continued its research to close information gaps identified in the CEPA Assessment of Effluents from Pulp Mills Using Bleaching. This program has already resulted in new methods to test effluents for their capacity to cause sub-lethal effects in fish.

In cooperation with MEND (Mine Environment Neutral Drainage), several mining companies and Canadian universities, NWRI is expanding its research on the fate of metals in aquatic ecosystems by examining several mining sites in Canada.

Canadian Wildlife Service

The Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) conducts CEPA research and monitoring at its National Wildlife Research Centre and regional offices. By detecting and measuring the effects of toxic substances on wildlife, CWS researchers can assess the overall health of species, predict the impact of pollutants, and provide an early warning system for potential environmental and human health problems.

During 1993-94, CWS was involved in several major research, monitoring and assessment projects aimed at assessing effects of contaminants on wildlife and their ecosystems throughout Canada. A new bioassay technique, developed at the National Wildlife Research Centre, should be useful in determining the sensitivity of rare and endangered species to the toxic and biochemical effects of dioxins, furans, PCBs and related environmental contaminants.

In the Atlantic Region, CWS organized volunteer networks at five Atlantic Coastal Action Program (ACAP) sites to conduct monthly wildlife surveys. The survey results will be used to determine which species would best indicate contaminant exposure and demonstrate the effectiveness of remedial action. Also through the sites, CWS is studying the feasibility of using tree swallows as indicators and a volunteer network is being used to monitor the reproductive success of this species at the contaminated sites.

In the Quebec Region, CWS researchers found that adult and young ospreys living around hydroelectric reservoirs were contaminated with mercury. No effect on reproduction was observed, although a problem may arise in young birds depending on the length of time that they spend around the reservoirs.

Also in Quebec, a project was initiated to study cadmium and mercury levels in birds and mammals. Preliminary results indicate there are lower levels of mercury in the golden eagle than the bald eagle. A study on the exposure of wildlife to pulp and paper mill effluent on the Saint-Maurice River in Quebec indicated that herring gulls, mergansers and mink contain low levels of dioxins and furans. No effect on their health was observed. The analysis of frogs and shrews collected near the site of the 1990 Saint-Amable tire fire determined that these animals contained very low levels of toxic substances liberated by the fire.

In the Ontario Region, tree swallows are being used as biomonitors of contamination in wetlands associated with two areas of concern on the Great Lakes. Data collected will be compared with that collected after remediation of the contaminant problems at these sites. Studies continued on the dynamics of chlorinated hydrocarbons in the common snapping turtle, another indicator of the health of wetland habitats.

As part of a collaborative project with McMaster University, CWS studied the relationships between the mutation rate of DNA in herring gulls and the exposure to PAHs. Preliminary results suggest that fewer mutations occur on less contaminated sites when compared with more contaminated sites, such as Hamilton Harbour. CWS also collaborated with researchers from the University of Windsor and McGill University to examine the effects of zebra mussels on levels of contaminants in fish-eating birds in Lake Erie.

CWS's continuing research on the reproductive failure of herring gulls in Lake Superior points to poor diet quality and quantity as potential causes. Contaminant analyses of both adults and eggs collected at several sites revealed that halogenated aromatic compounds were not related to the failure.

Using data collected on the contamination of herring gull eggs since the early 1970s, CWS researchers used computer modelling to predict contaminant levels in forage fish and Lake Ontario water. Analyzing the herring gull egg monitoring data for dioxins and furans showed a pattern consistent with a combustion source. The exception occurs in Lake Ontario and Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron, where specific sources of dioxins were indicated. Organochlorine levels and the breeding biology of Great Lakes Caspian terns were also studied.

Also in Ontario, CWS continued to study the effects of mercury exposure on common loons. To date, the study has indicated that a significant proportion of lakes in central and northern Ontario have small fish with mercury concentrations high enough to affect loon reproduction.

A contrasting study of the potential effects of mercury in fish-eating birds in Manitoba and Saskatchewan concluded that the risk of adverse effects is low. Certain lakes in the Churchill-Nelson River system, as well as a small number of other lakes in the two provinces, are possible exceptions to this. Data, however, were lacking for several of the prairie lakes.

An ongoing study on the Wapiti River near Grande Prairie, Alberta, is now examining whether the tree swallow is the best example of riparian wildlife that preys on aquatic biota and is exposed to pulp and paper mill effluents. The study will assess whether existing Environmental Effects Monitoring guidelines for aquatic biota adequately interpret the effects of pulp and paper mill effluents on wildlife.

A study on lead exposure in bald eagles and golden eagles in the Prairie Provinces continues. A small percentage (less than 10 percent) of eagles found dead were diagnosed as lead poisoned. This number is much lower than that estimated for southern British Columbia, where a ban on the use of lead shot was implemented in 1990.

In British Columbia, monitoring of dioxin and furan levels in herons and cormorants from the Strait of Georgia revealed that after an initial decline following enhanced pollution control at pulp and paper plants, concentrations have stabilized. The environmental threat, however, is not over as dioxins and furans are very persistent in marine sediments. Concentrations, therefore, will continue to be monitored. Dioxins, furans and other organochlorines were also monitored in birds of prey in the Strait of Georgia and in the Fraser and Columbia River basins. The elevated levels of bald eagles indicate that they are the most contaminated of the fish-eating species breeding in the Strait of Georgia area. Research to determine the effects of this exposure on reproduction is continuing.

In the Northwest Territories, researchers continued to monitor contaminant levels in seabird eggs from the Canadian Arctic. The data collected is being added to a database, established in the mid-1970s, that helps to determine temporal trends of metals and organochlorines in these birds. CWS, in conjunction with provincial and territorial wildlife agencies and local hunting and trapping associations, collected waterfowl and other game birds from 12 communities in the Northwest Territories and from 23 sites in the Prairie Provinces. Risks to human health from eating these birds can be assessed by determining contaminant levels. Earlier data on wild foods collected from Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic regions were evaluated by Health Canada, and concern is generally low.

As part of a Carleton University Ph.D. project being carried out at CWS, a method was verified for determining methylsulfone-PCBs in biological samples. Twenty-two persistent methylsulfone metabolites were identified in polar bear tissues. In addition, researchers determined how these potentially toxic compounds are distributed in the western hemisphere. As part of another collaborative project, CWS and graduate researchers at the University of Saskatchewan examined the seasonal kinetics of chlorinated contaminants in the fat and milk of female polar bears and their cubs. With the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Quebec Department of Public Health, CWS also completed a comparison of PCB levels in Arctic marine mammals, polar bears and humans in northern Quebec.

National Hydrology Research Institute

Environment Canada's National Hydrology Research Institute (NHRI), located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, researches the environmental issues surrounding Canada's aquatic ecosystems. In collaboration with many national and international partners in universities, government agencies, other research facilities, and the private sector, NHRI participates in interdisciplinary research programs that address regional, national and international environmental problems.

In 1993-94, NHRI continued to investigate the effects of contaminants on large river systems, a major federal-provincial research program. Under the Fraser River Action Plan and the Northern River Basins Study, NHRI scientists are assessing the effects of pulp mill effluents on aquatic ecosystems. In another major research program, scientists in Saskatchewan are examining the impact of agrochemicals on prairie wetland ecosystems.

Research on ground water contamination during 1993-94 includes a major new program in the Fraser Lowlands of British Columbia that uses stable isotope techniques to investigate sources, possibly agricultural, of nitrate contamination of transboundary ground water. In partnership with industry, ground water specialists are continuing to research the development of biotechnological techniques, such as biobarriers, and bioremediation technologies for in situ treatment of contaminated sites.

In the North, NHRI is studying the role of snowcovers in controlling the release of inorganic contaminants accumulated in the snowpack, and on the impact of the snowcovers on northern ecosystems.

State of the Environment

Canadians need credible, timely and comprehensive information on environmental trends and conditions if they are to make informed choices leading toward sustainable development. For that reason, the federal government reports periodically to Canadians on the state of the environment, as required by CEPA. In its reports, the Government tries to relate environmental information to social and economic considerations.

Environment Canada's State of the Environment (SOE) organization, in accordance with CEPA's legislative mandate, is now working to

  • publish a national report on the state of Canada's environment at regular intervals; and
  • develop and release a comprehensive set of national environmental indicators on a regular basis.


The State of Canada's Environment, Canada's second national SOE report, was released in April 1992. Prepared over a four-year period with substantial contributions from a broad range of stakeholders, the report has become a Canadian bestseller. To date, over 15,000 copies have been sold. An extensive evaluation of the report revealed a 97 percent satisfaction rate among users. Drawing on the results of this evaluation, the SOE organization developed a strategic plan for development of the next national SOE report, to be released in 1996. It also put SOE networks in place and established coordinating committees. Work on chapter manuscripts began in 1993-94.

Ecological Monitoring

In 1993-94, the common national ecological framework underwent minor fine tuning. Acceptance of this framework continued to grow as the number of partnerships increased. Most notably, this framework was used in trilateral environmental workshops between Canada, the United States and Mexico.

The work on ecological science centres progressed from the conceptual stage to the development of business plans for six pilot centres. To facilitate this initiative, information about federal and provincial monitoring networks was incorporated into a geographic information system. Staff conducting departmental regional monitoring evaluations and assessments found this system particularly useful.

Environmental Indicators

Environment Canada uses bulletins to report regularly on a set of national environmental indicators. Four indicator bulletins were published in 1993-94: Toxic Contaminants in the Environment: Persistent Organochlorines; Stratospheric Ozone Depletion: November 1993 Update; Urban Water: Municipal Water Use and Wastewater Treatment; and Urban Air Quality.

The Department began indicator research and development in the following areas: acid rain, urban green spaces and land-use change, marine fish resources and marine ecosystem health, forest resources, fresh water quality, biodiversity and state of wildlife, metal contaminants in the ecosystem, and waste management.

Environment Canada is seeking the best ways to present indicators and to ensure that decision makers can use them as a way to take environmental considerations into account. To this end, it has developed scenarios for the users of several indicators and prepared a report on ways that data gathered through state of the environment reporting can assist planning by the financial services industry.

Consultations and partnerships with stakeholders remain an integral part of the indicators program. Stakeholders are being invited to review and comment on proposed indicators during the development process. Extensive stakeholder involvement is critical if the indicators are to be accepted and used as "common currency." Work with the provinces and territories through the CCME resulted in the production of a working menu of environmental indicators for CCME purposes.

During 1993-94, SOE played a particularly active role in the development of indicators for Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) country environmental performance reviews. The results of this effort were published in an OECD Environment Monograph.

Environmental Information Network

After reaching agreement on the basic assumptions upon which to develop an Environmental Information Network, Environment Canada established the systems specifications for such a network. They outlined the specifications in a request for proposal for private industry to bid on a contract for future development. More than 75 companies reviewed the proposal.

Non-regulatory Instruments

CEPA Part I, particularly Section 8, gives the federal government responsibility for a wide range of non-regulatory actions.

Researchers are devoting considerable effort to developing guidelines and codes of practice to give industries and regulators clear directions on how to reduce emissions, effluents and wastes.

Recently developed non-regulatory instruments include

  • Code of Good Practice for the Management of Pesticides at Federal Facilities; and
  • Thermal Power Generation Emissions: National Guidelines for New Stationary Sources (revised).

Environmental Quality Guidelines

The Minister of the Environment has the authority to formulate environmental quality guidelines and objectives under Section 8 of CEPA. Federal, provincial and territorial agencies use these non-regulatory devices when assessing and managing environmental quality issues.

In 1993-94, Environment Canada, in conjunction with the CCME, published water quality guidelines for the following chemicals on the Priority Substances List (PSL): tetrachloroethylene, aniline, 3,5-dimethylaniline, bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, di-n-octyl phthalate, and dibutyl phthalate.

In addition, water quality guidelines were published for ethylene glycol, propylene glycol and diethylene glycol. Work continued on water quality guidelines for dioxins, furans, PAHs, cadmium, styrene and methyl tertiary-butyl ether. Plans were made to develop guidelines for the following PSL substances: benzidine, monochlorobenzene, 1,2-dichlorobenzene, 1,4-dichlorobenzene, trichlorobenzene, tetrachlorobenzene, pentachlorobenzene, hexachlorobenzene, arsenic, toluene, benzene, ethylbenzene and components of chlorinated wastewater effluents (nitrate, phosphate, ammonia, chloramines, biological oxygen demand (BOD), dissolved oxygen (DO), suspended solids, free residual chlorine and nutrients) for receiving waters.

As well, Environment Canada, in conjunction with the CCME, finalized the Protocol on the Derivation and Use of Canadian Tissue Residue Guidelines for the Protection of Wildlife in Aquatic Ecosystems. Work continued on tissue residue guidelines for dioxins, furans and cadmium. Plans were made to develop tissue residue guidelines for arsenic and hexachlorobenzene.

The Protocol for the Derivation of Canadian Sediment Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life was finalized through the CCME and prepared for publication. Preliminary draft documents on sediment quality guidelines for cadmium, mercury, PAHs, dioxins and furans were completed for in-house review. Work began on the development of marine sediment quality guidelines for PCBs, as well as on guidelines for background concentrations of naturally occurring substances in sediments. Development of sediment quality guidelines for arsenic, copper, lead and zinc should begin in 1994-95.

In addition, Environment Canada and the CCME are preparing a national protocol for development of soil quality criteria. In 1993-94, the development of soil quality criteria for copper, chromium, lead, benzo(a)pyrene and cyanide began, and criteria for arsenic, cadmium, mercury, pentachlorophenol, trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, benzene, toluene, xylene, and ethylbenzene were prepared and will be approved by the CCME in 1994-95. Plans were also made to develop criteria for phenol, ethylene glycol, naphthalene, vanadium and zinc in 1994-95.

Related guidance documents were published for these guidelines, namely A Framework for Ecological Risk Assessment at Contaminated Sites in Canada: Review and Recommendations and A Review of Whole Organism Bioassays for Assessing the Quality of Soil, Freshwater Sediment and Freshwater in Canada. Other documents supporting the guidelines are in preparation, including "Guidance Manual for Developing Site-Specific Soil Quality Remediation Objectives for Contaminated Sites," "Guidance Manual for Ecological Risk Assessment at Contaminated Sites in Canada," "Guidance on the Application of Whole Organism Bioassays to Contaminated Site Assessment and Remediation," "Evaluation and Distribution of Master Variables Affecting Solubility of Contaminants in Canadian Soils," and "Estimates of Soil Ingestion by Wild and Domestic Animals."

The Environmental Choice Program

Environmental Choice

The Environmental Choice Program(TM) (ECP), Environment Canada's voluntary eco-labelling program, helps consumers identify products and services that reduce the burden on the environment. The EcoLogo(TM), three doves intertwined to form a maple leaf symbolizing Canadian government, business and consumers working together for the environment, identifies products and services that meet the ECP's stringent environmental criteria.

The ECP is cooperating internationally with several other countries that are establishing labelling programs. In Canada, the EcoLogo is being well received in the marketplace and generating increasing interest from both consumers and industry.

Protected under the Trade Marks Act, Environmental Choice, EcoLogo, and the EcoLogo symbol are official marks of Environment Canada. They may be used only under licence or through authorization from the Program.

In April 1994, the ECP will launch an authorized printing of the EcoLogo program to encourage and facilitate the printing of the EcoLogo on ECP-certified paper stocks by interested, non-licensed parties. This initiative is expected to increase exposure of the EcoLogo and boost demand for ECP-certified paper products, making it a beneficial venture for both the Program and its licensees.

At the end of March 1994, the Environmental Choice Program had finalized 29 guidelines for the following products:

  • re-refined motor oil;
  • products made from recycled plastic;
  • batteries;
  • water-based paint;
  • fine paper from recycled paper;
  • miscellaneous products from recycled paper;
  • newsprint from recycled paper;
  • solvent-based paint;
  • heat-recovery ventilators;
  • diapers;
  • diaper services;
  • composting systems for residential waste;
  • automotive fuels;
  • reusable utility bags;
  • major household appliances;
  • energy-efficient lamps;
  • water-conserving products;
  • compost;
  • laundry detergents;
  • automatic dishwashing detergents;
  • non-rechargeable batteries;
  • domestic water heaters;
  • building materials--acoustical products;
  • building materials--thermal insulation;
  • dry cleaning services;
  • toner cartridges;
  • engine coolant concentrate;
  • adhesives; and
  • sealants and caulking compounds.
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