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
Spanish Harbour is located within the Canadian Shield on the northern shore of the North Channel of Lake Huron. The AOC extends from the mouth of the Spanish River upstream 53 km to the town of Espanola. Whalesback Channel adjacent to the harbour is also included as part of the AOC.
The river and harbour were designated as an AOC in 1985 due to historic log-driving operations and the discharge from the Domtar Inc. Eddy Specialty Papers (formerly E.B.Eddy Forest Products Ltd.) pulp and paper mill at Espanola. The Vermilion River, which enters the Spanish River above Espanola drains the Sudbury basin and there are additional impacts due to historic and on-going mining, milling and smelting activities of INCO Ltd. and Falconbridge Ltd.in the adjacent basin.
The Spanish River Delta Marsh is designated as a provincially significant wetland with only five percent lost to waterfront development. The watershed is primarily uninhabited forest with the forestry industry being the most important economic force in the area. Domtar is the largest employer in Espanola which is the largest town in the AOC.All municipalities in the AOC are expanding tourism opportunities within their jurisdiction. The Sagamok Anishnawabek First Nation is located in the AOC.
The first (Stage 1) ecosystem assessment under the RAP process identified nine beneficial uses that were either impaired or required further scientific assessment. By 1997, many of the impacts were remediated and six of those impairments had been completely restored. The remaining use impairments included sport fish consumption restrictions due to mercury, degraded benthic communities in Spanish Harbour and Whalesback Channel and dredging restrictions related to elevated metal (nickel, copper, zinc) in the river and harbour sediments. Although there did not appear to be any significant impairment of fish populations in the river, there was evidence in 1997 that the fish were exposed to bioactive compounds from the pulp mill and that physiological effects such as enzyme inductions and depressed serum steroid levels had occurred. This was tagged for follow-up monitoring after Domtar completed actions to eliminate chlorinated compounds from its effluent by 2002.
The significant improvement in beneficial uses of the AOC is due to considerable efforts and financial investments by the communities, industry and governments. Environment Canada scientists conducted specific environmental assessments within the AOC related to fish and wildlife populations and the degraded benthic communities. The Government of Canada’s Great Lakes Sustainability Fund (GLSF) contributed to the development of the sediment mass balance study which then provided the information required by the RAP Team to assess loading reduction scenarios, make determinations with respect to remedial options and to make the case for natural recovery.
One of the fish and wildlife impairments originally identified was the loss of muskellunge from the fish community. When it was determined that water quality had improved sufficiently to make the recovery of muskellunge feasible, GLSF and 12 other partners teamed together to undertake a muskellunge re-introduction program beginning with the release of hatchery reared fish. The long term goal is to re-establish a self-sustaining population of this species in the river.
Domtar Inc-Eddy Specialty Papers invested $35 million in environmental control equipment and programs both within the watershed and upstream. These improvements include: the elimination of the final effluent foam pond and complete replacement of the old wood stave; effluent line installation of secondary treatment of discharge; elimination of hypochlorite bleaching; the replacement of the settling basins and spill liners and implementation of ozone bleaching on the hardware line; the construction of a state of the art Hardwood Chip Storage and Reclaim system with complete storm water containment and treatment; and the installation of permanent air diffusers in the Spanish River to maintain a minimum dissolved oxygen level. Upgrades will be continuing and the facility will use opportunities to reduce water and air emis-sions when possible.
INCO Ltd. and Falconbridge Ltd. located in the Sudbury basin, upstream of the AOC, have completed a number of environmental initiatives in recent years. These include major modifications at both smelter facilities to meet emission levels required by the Countdown Acid Rain program. Other regulatory requirements have resulted in initiatives to address effluent limits for metals, suspended solids and pH, elimina-tion of bypasses and achievement of non-toxic effluent.
INCO Ltd. has begun a multi-year initiative of several million dollars to reduce effluent bypasses at their central tailings area and wastewater treatment facilities in Copper Cliff, in the City of Greater Sudbury. This will result in reduced metal loadings to the Spanish River system during high flow periods. Initiatives are also underway to reduce the discharge of uncontrolled runoff to the Spanish River system. Currently, Falconbridge Ltd. discharge points do not experience bypasses. Both companies are generally in compliance with the MISA limits for effluent parameters at their discharge points.
The new Espanola Sewage Treatment which opened in 1995, incorporated aerobic secondary treatment and ultraviolet disinfection to treat effluent prior to discharge. The selection of ultra-violet disinfection by the Town of Espanola, was based on the results of a project that evaluated alternatives to chlorine which would represent a reduced health and environmental risk. The study was requested by the RAP Team and Public Advisory Committee and supported by GLSF.
During the development and implementation of the RAP there was an active Public Advisory Committee. In 1994 Friends of the Spanish River was formed to increase public and industry awareness and involvement. The Stage 2 RAP was completed in 1999 and was celebrated with a public event that included the launch of the Adopt a Musky program. Local school children participated in an “Adopt a Musky“ contest which provided educational opportunities. Annual introduction of muskellunge yearlings to the river is an ongoing and highly visible activity in the community credited to Friends of the Spanish River.
NATURAL RECOVERY OF THE SPANISH RIVER
A variation to the straight forward process of remediation followed by delisting is that of natural recovery. When all reasonable and practical interventions towards restoring an impaired beneficial use have been completed a further time period may be required for the environment to fully respond. Agencies commit to monitoring the recovery process and assess when the targets are met. The local public and PAC agree to a time scale with governments. In the interim a maintenance plan is put in place to ensure that no further degradation occurs. In the event that recovery does not occur, agencies would need to reconsider interventions. In other cases, the application of emerging technologies may be warranted.
In 1999, the Spanish River was the first AOC to be recog-nized as an Area in Recovery by the federal and provincial governments. All the recommended restoration activities have been completed, however ecosystem impairments still exist for the river and harbour sediments. Natural processes have the capacity over time to complete the restoration. This achievement would not have been possible without the actions that have been taken by the communities and industries to reduce or eliminate their impacts on the environment and their efforts were celebrated at a special event held in June 1999.
Government agencies are continuing their support of the muskellunge re-introduction project. Further stocking of fingerlings is required and would be followed with monitoring of population size to determine if the re-introduction of this top predator fish species is a success. The completion of the muskellunge re-introduction program will form one element for the re-establishment of the historical fish community.
At present the sportfish consumption advisories in effect for mercury reflect lakewide conditions and are not a result of sources within the AOC. Monitoring of sport fish contaminant levels is continuing at regular intervals. Although dioxin levels do not trigger advisories, ecosystem impacts should be assessed by monitoring young of the year fish for dioxin and dioxin-like PCBs according to Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) guidelines.
The recognition of Spanish Harbour as an Area in Recovery still requires Environment Canada, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and their community partners to be vigilant. There is a commitment to ensure that a monitoring plan is in place and that measurements of progress are reported to the public.
With the exception of the completion of muskellunge re-introduction program, all other actions to meet restoration targets within the boundaries of the AOC have been accomplished. Natural repopulation of muskellunge may require decades and ongoing monitoring will be required. The remaining impairments (fish consumption restrictions, degraded benthic communities and dredging restrictions) are related to historic and ongoing mining operations in the Sudbury basin, upstream of the AOC. Mining sources are being addressed by provincial programs. Estimates of 15-40 years, based on a computer model, are given for the attenuation of this load and natural recovery to occur.
- Date Modified: