Environment Canada’s Environmental Emergency Response Section
Environment Canada's Environmental Emergency Response Section (EERS) exists in order to provide specialized advice and sophisticated modeling which tracks hazardous material that could or does end up in the atmosphere. In addition to providing support to the department’s environmental emergencies program, the EERS also provides support for:
- The Montreal Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC);
- The Montreal Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre (RSMC);
- The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO); and
- The Federal Nuclear Emergency Plan.
Montreal Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre
Working at the Montreal Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC), the EERS monitors volcanic activity and is responsible for responding to any volcanic eruption that could affect the airspace over Canada and its adjacent waters.
Volcanic eruptions produce clouds of ash that can severely damage an aircraft’s engines and surfaces. This is why the Montreal VAAC issues Volcanic Ash Advisories when a concentrated area of volcanic ash, known as a plume, has been detected. These advisories, along with SIGMET (SIGnificant METeorological information) warnings, alert the aviation community to the presence of potential danger in the air.
Montreal Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre
A network of Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres RSMCs was created by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) following the accident at the Chernobyl, Ukraine nuclear power plant on April 26, 1986. There are eight meteorological centres that provide modeling of hazardous substances in the air, in the event of an environmental catastrophe that crosses international borders. This modeling indicates how much of the hazardous material will be transported in the air, and how much will fall to the ground (this is known as “deposition”).
The RSMCs have the responsibility of issuing warning messages about nuclear accidents and providing specialized forecasts that show where the pollutants from such accidents are travelling once they get into the atmosphere. The EERS provides this specialized modeling as part of its role in the RSMC Montreal mandate.
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is a comprehensive international agreement that was negotiated on September 24, 1996. Its aim is to ban all nuclear weapons testing. Environment Canada’s EERS is an active member of the Canadian National Authority on CTBT which is led by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, along with Health Canada’s Radiation Protection Bureau and Natural Resources Canada.
The EERS supports CTBT activities by providing modeling that shows what would happen if radioactive material were to get out into the atmosphere and travel a far distance. This support also falls under the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) RSMCs responsibility, which is to provide an operational response to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) if an incident should occur.
The Federal Nuclear Emergency Plan
The Federal Nuclear Emergency Plan is led by Health Canada’s Radiation Protection Bureau. The Plan is what provides the structure and basis for federal nuclear emergency preparedness and response in Canada.
Environment Canada's EERS supports Health Canada and the Federal Nuclear Emergency Plan by providing their expertise and specialized models that simulate the transport of radioactive material in the atmosphere.
The EERS also supports the Chemical, Biological, Radiological-Nuclear, and Explosives (CBRNE) Research and Technology Initiative (CRTI), which is part of how Canada responds and deals with potential CBRNE threats to public security. The EERS contributes to the CRTI community and is involved in various projects, such as one on the development of a modeling prototype that would address the spreading of chemical, biological, radiological-nuclear, and explosive material in urban environments.
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