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January / February 2010

Science information for water professionals, policy and decision makers and others interested in effective management of Canada’s water resources

January / February 2010

Science Notes

New Compounds Found in the Environment

A recent news article published in Environmental Science and Technology, reports work by Ed Sverko, NLET, with Chris Marvin and Donna Zaruk, that identified four impurities in the technical mixture of Dechlorane Plus (DP), a widely used flame retardant identified on the Domestic Substances List/Schedule 1. Impurities are created unintentionally during synthesis of the commercial mixture, and, in this case, were discovered during research to determine changes in DP concentrations, over time, in Lake Ontario sediment core samples. The news article reports that to the best of the research team’s knowledge, none of the compounds “have been previously reported in the environment.”  Results of further work to ascertain the impact of DP and the newly found impurities on the Lake Ontario food web showed that these compounds bioaccumulate in fish, specifically trout. Overall, this work points out the need to consider impurities from high production volume chemicals because they can potentially bioaccumulate to a greater degree than the main chemical itself.

State-of-the-Art Aquatic Life Research Facility Opens at Canada Centre for Inland Waters

Ribbon-cutting opening the Aquatic Life Research Facility.  From left to right: Mike Wallace, MP Burlington; Gail Shea, Minister DFO; Dan Wicklum, DG WSTD | Photo: Graphics, EAOLRSDGail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and Mike Wallace, Member of Parliament for Burlington, Ontario, joined Dan Wicklum, Director General, Water Science and Technology Directorate, at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters (CCIW) on January 25, 2010, for the ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the official opening of the new Aquatic Life Research Facility. The new $4.6M facility was jointly funded by Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, replacing an older wet lab built in the 1970s. It contains features that dramatically increase the scope, capacity and energy efficiency of aquatic research at CCIW, including a main experiment room that supports four times the number of aquaria found in the original wet lab, and a water recirculation and filtration system estimated to save almost $400K per year.  Visit the Aquatic Life Research Facility website to learn more.

With Support from the Canadian Water NetworkImproving Microbial UV Disinfection for Wastewater Systems

Ian G. Droppo, Peter Seto, Cheng He, and John Gibson of Environment Canada, with Prof. Steven Liss (University of Guelph), Prof. Ramin Farnood (University of Toronto), Dr. Bill Cairns (Trojan Technologies) and Andre Schnell (Ontario Ministry of the Environment) were successful in obtaining a 2-year grant from the Canadian Water Network for investigating applying hydrodynamic particle breakage to improve microbial UV disinfection for wastewater systems. Much of the work will take place in the Wastewater Technology Centre of the Water S&T Directorate and will include graduate students from the universities of Guelph and Toronto working on-site and co-supervised by EC staff. This research is expected to lead to development of an innovative, more cost-effective technology for wastewater disinfection. The technology may also enhance the opportunity for wastewater reuse initiatives.

With Support from the Canadian Water Network – Emerging Contaminants Removal within Existing Municipal Wastewater Treatment Processes

Male and female fathead minnows. | Photo: Joanne ParrottPeter Seto, Joanne Parrott and Graham van Aggelen, with researchers from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and five universities, were successful in obtaining a 2-year grant from the Canadian Water Network for determining the efficacy of removing emerging contaminants in various existing municipal wastewater treatment processes through chemical and toxicological/toxicogenomic assessments. A major portion of the work will take place within the Wastewater Technology Centre, NWRI, and Pacific and Yukon Laboratory for Environmental Testing located at the Pacific Environmental Science Centre, and will include graduate students and post-doctorate fellows working on-site, co-supervised by EC staff.

The research will investigate a number of pilot-scale wastewater treatment trains to assess how various treatment processes alter the toxicology of the effluent as determined by conventional, gene expression and physiological endpoints, with further support obtained by chemical analyses. The project uses Canadian species for biological testing that are directly relevant to the country’s diverse environments. Application of life-cycle fathead minnow tests will support assessment of whole organism responses on reproduction. Cutting-edge fish and amphibian gene microarrays, confirmed by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction, will be used to do rapid assessment of gene expression. These microarrays include well characterized genes linked to mechanisms that cause effects at higher levels of organization (e.g., estrogen receptor). These will be supported with biochemical and physiological responses in standardized bioassays (e.g., Vg induction, oxidative stress, etc.). This is an advantage over chemical specific analysis in that the sum total of all the constituents and their interactions in the effluent are taken into account.

Water S&T Research and Monitoring Contributes to Successful Resolution of Bi-national Dispute

Residents of Sugar Island, Michigan, and PUC Services Inc. of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, have come to an agreement to resolve litigation pending in the U.S. District Court in Marquette since summer 2006 regarding operation of the East End Water Pollution Control Plant. The Sugar Island Monitoring Workgroup, co-chaired by Debbie Burniston and including other EC scientists, was established in February 2007 in response to reports of floating solids with high E. coli levels periodically found in the Lake George channel of the St. Marys River.

The multi-agency, bi-national workgroup was tasked by the Four Party Management Committee (consisting of representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Environment Canada, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and Ontario Ministry of the Environment) to develop and implement a monitoring plan to determine the source and nature of the floating materials and cause(s) of the periodic high levels of E. coli at the Sugar Island Township Park beach.

Environment Canada’s expertise in harmful algal blooms (Dr. Sue Watson), microbial source tracking (Dr. Tom Edge), and field operations (Mr. John Kraft) was relied on heavily to provide compelling evidence of natural phenomena that were largely responsible for public complaints. Overall, government and public stakeholders were impressed by the level of bi-national cooperation, organization, and activity on this highly politically charged and scientifically complex issue.

What’s New in Wetlands?

Garth van der Kamp gave a keynote introduction at an international workshop on wetlands management, economics and policy in Victoria, B.C. His presentation, “Hydrology, Climate, Land-use Change and the Threat to Wetlands” reviewed the hydrologic processes that control the water balance of wetlands and then showed how these apply for prairie wetlands. His key message was that wetland hydrology should be viewed in the perspective of long-term climate variability and of the drainage basins that interchange water, nutrients and biota with the wetlands. It is recommended, therefore, that wetland economics and policy should be based on this broader context instead of considering the wetlands in isolation from their surroundings.

Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program - Pacific Laboratories Accredited

Displaying the ISO/IEC 17205 accreditation. From left to right: Blair Holmes, Heather Lord, Peter Thompson, Margaret Menacherry. | Photo: Kevin ChernoffThe Marine Water Quality Monitoring Program supports Environment Canada’s mandate in the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program, which identifies safe shellfish (bivalve mollusc) harvesting areas in Canada. Laboratories conducting analysis for regulatory decisions under the Program must be accredited in accordance with the international standard ISO/IEC 17025:2005 General Requirements for the Competence of Testing and Calibration Laboratories by April 1, 2010.  The process to acquire accreditation for Marine Water Quality Monitoring/Pacific Region laboratories was initiated in December 2007, and the final accreditation was granted on December 24, 2009.

The accreditation applies to the headquarters microbiology laboratory located at Pacific Environmental Science Centre (PESC) in Vancouver, B.C., as well as to three mobile laboratories that conduct microbiology analyses of marine water samples collected through most of British Columbia's coast. Achieving this accreditation, coupled with increasing water monitoring activities, further strengthens Canada's international reputation of producing safe and wholesome seafood for foreign markets and domestic consumers. 

New on Environment Canada’s S&T Online

Leading the Way in Preventing Wet Weather Pollution highlights Jiri Marsalek’s research on combined sewer overflows and urban water management, and describes his work with national and international partners to reduce contaminants in aquatic ecosystems. Read on rECent S&T and subscribe to the RSS feed for the latest updates.

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