Wheatley Harbour Delisted Area of Concern
Wheatley Harbour is a small, confined harbour on the north shore of Lake Erie that is characteristic of many small harbours on the Great Lakes. The Wheatley Harbour Area of Concern encompasses the harbour proper and the adjacent Muddy Creek wetland. The Muddy Creek watershed is approximately 10 square kilometres of clay-veneer till plain. Topographic relief is minimal and land use is predominantly agricultural. The harbour is designated a federal Small Craft Harbour and is managed by a local harbour authority.
Why was this area listed?
Overall, poor water quality has impacted the harbour's resources. As a result a number of beneficial use impairments have been identified for the area. These include:
- Restrictions on fish consumption,
- Degradation of fish and wildlife populations,
- Restrictions on dredging activities,
- Eutrophication or undesirable algae, and
- Loss of fish and wildlife habitat.
Historically, Wheatley Harbour has had significant water pollution problems due to industrial discharges, primarily from fish and vegetable processing plants. Since the early 1970's nutrient and metal concentrations have increased, and are largely attributed to non-point sources. The major environmental concerns in the Areas of Concern are historical sources of Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB), contaminated sediments, high phosphorus concentrations, poor water clarity (high suspended solids), bacterial contamination, and habitat loss.
What is being done? How is it being done?
In the 1980s, Wheatley Harbour was identified as an Areas of Concern, the only one on the Canadian shores of Lake Erie. Under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement , the governments of Canada and the United States have agreed to develop Remedial Action Plans (RAP) for Areas of Concern. Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Environment Canada are the agencies responsible for the delivery of the Canadian RAP, with cooperation from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources , Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA), and the Essex County Stewardship Network. Linkages and alliances have been developed between the RAP team and various other groups in the community including industry, municipalities, and landowners.
The RAP was initiated in 1987, and involves the following steps:
- defining the problem
- planning implementation
- implementing the actions, and
- monitoring restoration of the environment
Wheatley Harbour has been delisted as an Area of Concern. All remedial actions recommended in the 1998 Stage 1/Stage 2 RAP report, as well as numerous other initiatives developed by the partners in 2004, were completed by 2008. The Stage 3 RAP Report, reporting on the results of monitoring undertaken to confirm that the environmental challenges have been addressed successfully through the remedial actions, was completed in 2009.
Highlight of the RAP
The RAP partners have successfully addressed the five environmental challenges identified in the Wheatley Harbour Area of Concern. The Stage 3 RAP Report was completed in 2009, and Wheatley Harbour was delisted as an Area of Concern in April 2010.
Continued navigational dredging is expected to remove any remaining PCB from the harbour. Ongoing issues with a regional scope, such as invasive species and nutrients, will continue to be addressed under the Lake Erie Lakewide Management Plan.
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