Canada's RAP Progress Report 2003
- The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and Remedial Action Plans (RAPs)
- Severn Sound
- Collingwood Harbour
- Spanish Harbour
- Thunder Bay
- Nipigon Bay
- Jackfish Bay
- Peninsula Harbour
- St. Marys River
- St. Clair River
- Detroit River
- Wheatley Harbour
- Niagara River
- Hamilton Harbour
- Toronto and Region
- Port Hope Harbour
- Bay of Quinte
- St. Lawrence River (Cornwall)
- List of Acronyms
- Figure 1 - Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin
- Table 1 - Status of Beneficial Use Impairments in Canadian Areas of Concern. January, 2003
Wheatley Harbour is located on the north shore of Lake Erie just east of Point Pelee. AOC includes the harbour, its upstream wetlands and the Muddy Creek watershed. The watershed is approximately ten square kilometres in size. The nearest population centre is the village of Wheatley.
Wheatley Harbour is home to the largest commercial fishing fleet in the Great Lakes. It is a major fish processing port for the western and central basins of Lake Erie and is the location of fish and vegetable processing facilities which have contributed historical discharges to the harbour. Wheatley Harbour is a federally operated Small Craft Harbour. Land use in the watershed is predominantly agricultural and much of the original Carolinian forest has been cleared.
The RAP process has identified four beneficial uses as impaired in the AOC. Restrictions on dredging activities, eutrophication or undesirable algae, fish and wildlife population degradation, and loss of fish and wildlife habitat are currently recognized as impairments. The sport fish consumption restrictions that apply to fish are a result of lakewide contaminant levels; studies are assessing whether there are any contributions due to PCB sources in the harbour sediments.
The impairments are linked to the environmental concerns that follow and these will require resolution before delisting can be accomplished. Contaminant levels in the sediment of some metals and PCBs, exceed Provincial Sediment Quality Guidelines. The source of PCBs in the sediments have been tracked to an historic concentrating effect from the fish processed in Wheatley Harbour. The metal concentrations are attributed to non-point sources including run-off from agriculture in the area.
The total phosphorus concentration in the sediments and waters of most of the AOC exceed provincial guidelines. Present sources of phosphorus include Omstead Foods Ltd., agricultural runoff and leaking septic tanks. With upgrades to the Omstead Foods Ltd. wastewater treatment facility over the past 20 years, agricultural runoff to Muddy Creek is now the main source of phosphorus.
Although there are no beaches in the AOC, levels of E. coli bacteria in the harbour periodically exceed Provincial Water Quality Objectives due to leaky septic tanks and agricultural runoff. Beaches immediately outside the AOC are subject to summer closures.
Habitat loss has resulted from the construction of the original harbour and with each subsequent expansion. Hardening of the shoreline and filling in of the wetlands to create industrial, residential and farm land have altered many components of the natural ecosystem in the harbour and Muddy Creek watershed. The wetland immediately north of the harbour is often nearly dry during the summer months from lack of stream flow and lake level variations. However, the Muddy Creek wetland is still a feeding area to numerous provincially significant fish and wildlife species and the area is used for bird watching.
The community around Wheatley Harbour decided that a standing public advisory committee was not required. RAP communications with the community has relied on newsletters, public meetings and through school libraries. Local residents would like the harbour to remain an active commercial and fishing port, and have identified wildlife as a feature that is worthy of protection.
In 1995, a prioritized list of nine remedial measures was endorsed by the public for implementation to address contaminated sediments, eutrophication or undesirable algae and loss of fish and wildlife habitat. Additional measures address public education of boaters, swimmers and fishers.
The Essex County Stewardship Network (ECSN) is working to bring landowners together to raise awareness of RAP goals and an understanding of the contribution of agricultural activities to non-point source pollution in the watershed.
Since 1990, GLSF has contributed $409K to six projects in the categories of non-point source pollution control and habitat restoration. Partnerships with local stakeholders have realized an additional $395K in direct funding and in-kind contributions of over $470K.
Environmental successes include:
Significant improvements have been made in wastewater treatment. Elevated phosphorus levels are now primarily due to agricultural runoff in the Muddy Creek watershed. The ECSN rural non-point source program is in the process of gathering data for water and sediments, developing a management plan and a landowner contact program that will foster an understanding of environmental responsibility among farmers and bring changes to agricultural practices that load phosphorus and bacteria into the watershed.
Environmental sampling conducted in 1998 concluded that the AOC does not yet meet the water use goals as defined by the local residents. Further work was undertaken by EC and MOE between 2000 and 2002 to better characterize water quality, sediments and biota. The information will be used to assess the status of beneficial use impairments.
Implementation of the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy for the AOC is underway and will serve to improve an area that has fewer bird species than other nearby shoreline locations, provide baseline data for wetland reptiles and amphibians, and be a component to a larger undertaking for the Canadian Carolinian Zone.
Potential candidate projects for support from GLSF would include native tree planting that will expand and link existing woodlots in order to address the fish and wildlife habitat BUI, and upgrading septic systems to address water quality issues.
There is a need to address the nine remedial measures associated with contaminated sediments, high phosphorus concentration, poor water clarity, bacterial contamination and habitat loss that together form the delisting strategy.
A decision is needed regarding the moderate levels of historical PCBs in the harbour sediment. The preferred remedial option for the contaminated sediments is natural recovery with continued navigational dredging, however recovery is not occurring as quickly as anticipated and other options may need to be considered.
All actions in Wheatley Harbour are expected to be completed by 2007. Following the evaluation of existing data, further remedial actions will be undertaken as required. Delisting will occur when water use goals and delisting criteria have been met and monitoring demonstrates that beneficial uses have been restored.
- Date Modified: