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ARCHIVED - CEPA Annual Report April 1998 to March 1999

Part I: Environmental Quality; Objectives, Guidelines and Codes of Practice (CEPA Sections 7-10)

Part I authorizes the Minister to undertake scientific research relating to environmental pollution and to set objectives, guidelines and codes of practice relating to the quality of the environment.

Scientific Research and Development: The Foundation of CEPA Implementation

Through scientific research and development, we can evaluate the impact of toxics on the environment and human health, determine levels of exposure to contaminants that are of acceptable risk, monitor changes to the environment over time and develop solutions to problems. Scientists also look for ways to minimize risk associated with exposure to contaminants as they search for explanations and alternatives. Without this knowledge, we would not know when to set limits on the use of a substance, what limits to set, how to prevent or clean up problems or how to replace the substance with another that has less, and preferably no, damaging qualities.

A wide range of scientific work supports the implementation of CEPA. It falls into four broad categories:

  • monitoring,
  • research and development,
  • testing, and
  • advice.


Monitoring changes in the environment, an important component of the scientific work supporting the implementation of CEPA, is essential for assessing the impact of toxics and the effectiveness of measures meant to minimize environmental damage and potential threats to human life. While resources for large-scale, national monitoring programs have declined during the last 10 years, federal, provincial, and territorial governments have increased their cooperative/collaborative efforts in monitoring activities. During 1998-99, ongoing environmental monitoring continued through the following main efforts:

  • National Air Pollution Surveillance (NAPS) Network

    This joint federal-provincial-municipal program, established in 1969, assesses the quality of ambient air in Canadian urban centres. There are over 150 monitoring stations in 55 cities throughout the country. In 1998-99, air monitoring focused on sulphur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3) and air toxics: volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated dibenzodioxins/dibenzofurans (PCDDs/PCDFs) and acid aerosols. The NAPS annual data for 1995 and 1996 were published in hard copy and on the Internet. The 1997 data have been collected and validated in preparation for publication.

  • Canadian Air and Precipitation Monitoring Program

    The current network of 18 regionally representative sites has been monitoring air and precipitation chemistry, with special attention to transboundary transport, for almost 20 years. The initial focus was on acid rain, but now smog pollutants (ozone and particulate matter) are also measured at some sites. The data, along with information from other networks, are validated and stored for analysis in the National Atmospheric Chemistry database.

  • Acid rain levels

    The amount of sulphate (the main acidifying pollutant) deposited by rain and snow has gone down from the early 1980s to the early 1990s. This is a direct result of reductions in emissions of sulphur dioxide, primarily from primary metal smelters and coal- burning utilities in Canada and the United States.

  • Integrated Atmospheric Deposition Network

    This joint Canada-United States program assesses the atmospheric delivery of persistent toxic substances to the Great Lakes. A second implementation plan was signed in 1998-99, adding the impact of air pollution on urban areas. An updated list of substances to measure will also be prepared.

  • Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network (EMAN)

    Environment Canada is the coordinating partner in a national network of more than 140 agencies conducting long-term, multi- disciplinary environmental assessment work. The network compiles material from over 100 sites across the country. The last annual Network National Science Meeting, held in Victoria in January 1999, brought together over 400 participants from across Canada to discuss research findings and to explore new directions for cooperation and partnerships in ecological and monitoring activities. The networks web site promotes monitoring activities and provides tools for training, observation reporting and data management. It is one of the most popular Environment Canada sites.

  • Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP)

    This program continues to investigate the presence of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the circumpolar Arctic. A report published in 1998-99 presents current information on the distribution, biomagnification and biological effects of organochlorine contaminants in Arctic air, snow, seawater and the marine mammal food chain.

In addition, several longer-term monitoring and assessment programs were completed during this fiscal year:

  • In 1998, the Canadian Wildlife Service published its final report summarizing an eight-year survey (1987-95) on levels of contaminants in the major waterfowl species throughout Canada. In only a few cases were contaminant levels found to be of potential concern to the health of the birds. Health Canada determined that the waterfowl and game birds surveyed were safe to eat.

  • A study of the diet of Great Lakes herring gulls over several years provides insight into the ecological changes that have occurred, particularly in Lake Erie, since the late 1980s. Working from archived egg samples, scientists noted that the consumption of fish by nesting gulls decreased over time. This trend likely reflects declines in fish availability and is believed to explain the recent rapid rates of decline in levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in Lake Erie herring gull eggs: reductions in PCB exposure result from the change in the herring gull diet and not from declines in biologically available PCB levels in the Lake Erie ecosystem.

  • In 1998-99, the Atlantic Region of Environment Canada prepared a review of eight years of data on populations of organisms that live in the sediments -benthic organisms- at ocean disposal sites. A key finding was the absence of significant changes in the benthic organisms during the eight-year period.

  • The Atlantic Region Mercury Team published Mercury in Atlantic Canada -A Progress Report. The Report summarizes three years of cooperative mercury research in the region and includes the results from studies of regional mercury sources, summarizes levels of mercury in the atmosphere, lake water, sediments, fish and wildlife and proposes a direction for future scientific efforts.

  • Results of a joint National Water Research Institute and University of Alberta study show that POPs increase in concentration with increasing altitude in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. This study provides a benchmark for future research and suggests that mountain glaciers and snow fields act as sinks for these semi-volatile contaminants and can gradually release them to the aquatic environment.

  • In 1998, Environment Canada's Pacific and Yukon Region completed the Fraser River Action Plan, which includes a comprehensive assessment of the status of the Fraser River basins aquatic ecosystem, documenting the presence, fate and effects of pollutants in water, sediments, benthic life, fish and birds. The assessment shows that smaller tributaries in regions affected by proximity to urban areas or by intense agriculture as well as the rivers estuary are showing many signs of contaminant stress. (For more information, see the Environment Canada reports entitledFraser River Action Plan Final Report [1998] andHealth of the Fraser River Aquatic Ecosystem: A Synthesis of Research Conducted under the Fraser River Action Plan, edited by C. Gray and T. Tuominen [1999].)

5NR MOU on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development The five natural resources departments with an interest in science and technology related to sustainable development collaborate under a Memorandum of Understanding. The five departments are:

  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada,
  • Environment Canada,
  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada,
  • Health Canada, and
  • Natural Resources Canada.

State of the Environment Reporting

A new approach to reporting to Canadians on the state of the environment has been established under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 1998-99 by the five federal natural resources (5NR) departments. The approach has four principal components:

  • national environmental indicators,
  • state of the environment reports, primarily based on issue and/or area of science assessments,
  • the Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network, and
  • a web site for integrating and disseminating information.

Guidelines for State of the Environment reports have been developed, and several reports are scheduled for publication in 1999-2000. Under this approach, the federal government continues to report regularly on a national set of environmental indicators, through the publication of indicator bulletins on key environmental issues. Four bulletins in the National Environmental Indicator Series - "Urban Water: Municipal Water Use and Wastewater Treatment", "Climate Change", "Sustaining Marine Resources: Pacific Herring Fish Stocks" and "Canadian Passenger Transportation" - were updated and published in 1998-99.

Environment Canada's Pacific and Yukon Region launched its Pacific and Yukon Environmental Indicators site, which features indicators for marine ecosystems, biodiversity, toxic contaminants, stratospheric ozone depletion and freshwater quality.

A Canada-United States progress report, Selection of Indicators for Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem Health, presents a set of indicators that will assist reporting, every two years, on the state of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem.

Research and Development

It is impossible to describe all the CEPA-related research and development work that was completed or begun in the time period covered by this annual report. The following section categorizes the type of research and development work undertaken and provides examples of some important projects and their results.

In general, scientific research and development related to CEPA can be grouped into four categories:

  • Classification of substances: Is it toxic? In what situations? At what levels?
  • Detection of substances: Is it present? At what concentration?
  • Development of cost-efficient tests for substances: Is this test accurate and reliable?
  • Reduction in the use, release or presence of toxic substances: Does this measure work?

Environment Canada's Research Facilities

  • Environmental Technology Centre
    • coordinates the operations of the federalprovincialmunicipal NAPS Network
    • develops tests to measure toxic substances
    • measures emissions from stationary and mobile sources
    • conducts research and development work relating to spill control and other environmental matters

  • National Water Research Institute
    • conducts a comprehensive national program of research and development in the aquatic sciences. (In 1998, the National Water Research Institute in Burlington, Ontario, and the National Hydrology Research Institute in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, joined together to form Canadas largest freshwater research entity.)

  • Wastewater Technology Centre
    • studies sewer networks and treatment systems
    • researches impact of municipal wastewaters on the environment
    • identifies ways to remediate contaminated sediments, soils and groundwater
    • assesses and develops pollution prevention opportunities for industry and commerce through the life cycle of their products and services

  • Canadian Clean Technology Centre
    • searches for cost-effective technologies and alternative processes for reducing waste, optimizing resources and improving production efficiency

  • The St. Lawrence Centre
    • works to support the St. Lawrence Vision 2000 Project to protect and conserve the St. Lawrence River ecosystem

  • National Wildlife Research Centre
    • studies the impact of toxic substances on wildlife

  • Climate and Atmospheric Research Directorate
    • studies the levels and movements of pollutants in the atmosphere

Classification of Substances

One of the main activities under CEPA is the identification and categorization of some substances as toxic. Solid scientific research is essential to the ongoing process of identifying and classifying toxic substances. This work leads to the development of guidelines, objectives and codes of practice for the safe use and disposal of substances and, when necessary, to the creation of policies or regulations to control their use and disposal. Following are some examples of 1998-99 research relating to the classification of substances:

  • Endocrine-disrupting substances (EDS) interact with the hormone-producing systems of many species, resulting in adverse effects on growth, development or reproduction. A significant amount of research on EDS is under way, particularly to identify substances that are not highly persistent but are still widespread in the environment:
    • The National Water Research Institute, in cooperation with the Wastewater Technology Centre, studied municipal effluents in Canada to ascertain the presence of substances that are suspected of causing a variety of estrogenic responses in fish (such as feminization). Results showed that alkylphenols, which are EDS, are common contaminants in Canadian municipal effluents. Natural and synthetic estrogens were also detected in final effluents at low concentrations. A laboratory procedure, the Toxicity Identification Evaluation, was used to identify the substances responsible for the toxicity. The results suggested that the estrogenic responses in fish are associated with natural and synthetic estrogens rather than with alkylphenols (nonylphenol and its ethoxylates).

    • A special issue of the Water Quality Research Journal of Canada reviews the scientific information available on nonylphenol and its ethoxylates, which are on the second CEPA Priority Substances List (PSL2). This information will be used to evaluate nonylphenol and its ethoxylates in the context of CEPA.

    • A joint study, with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, built on research linking spruce budworm spraying to declining salmon populations in New Brunswick. During a 10- year period, one of the insecticides used contained high concentrations of an EDS, 4-nonylphenol, which was added to increase sprayability. The research is considering the impact of this substance on the growth and survival of salmon.

  • Studies by the Environmental Technology Centre on the level of quantification (LOQ) for hexachlorobenzene (HCB) in soil and ash and PCDDs/PCDFs in soil, ash and stack emissions were completed. The LOQ is a benchmark that can be used for regulatory purposes and to determine if the virtual elimination of a substance has been achieved. HCB and PCDDs/PCDFs are on the first Priority Substances List (PSL1) and are to be virtually eliminated according to the Toxic Substances Management Policy. (Part II of this section has more information on toxic substances.)

  • Health Canada has several important groups of studies relating to the classification of substances:

    • Results of studies on the systemic effects of chloramines and the biotransformation of azo dyes have been used to establish Drinking Water Guidelines for the acceptable daily exposure to these chemicals. Research on the biotransformation of azo dyes has generated structure-activity rules that can be used to predict the carcinogenicity of these substances and to manage their health risks.

    • Experiments are being conducted to attempt to identify specific components of particulate matter as determinants of acute toxicity. To date, most studies suggest that people with pre-existing cardiovascular or respiratory disease are more susceptible to air pollution. However, some studies note that air pollution also has health effects in the general population. While the studies are the subject of some debate, a major investigation of the cardiovascular impacts of particulate matter is being conducted by the University of Ottawa and Health Canada in collaboration with the Health Effects Institute.

    • Experiments are being conducted to improve the identification of dose levels and specific mixtures of POPs that could induce long-term adverse developmental, reproductive and carcinogenic effects (e.g., mammary and prostate cancer). These experiments also attempt to identify stages of development (e.g., perinatal and senescence) during which individuals could be more sensitive to the toxic effects of these chemicals.

    • Studies on the PSL2 chemicals hexachloro-butadiene (HCBD) and acrylonitrile used a new gene marker (cII) and the BigBlue rat transgenic model to assist in completing the CEPA assessment of these chemicals.

Technology at Work

The Scanning Laser Environmental Airborne Fluorosensor is a remote sensing instrument used to detect oil spills. It is capable of classifying the type of oil spilled and avoids the "false positive" signals of almost all other oil spill remote sensing equipment. A Fluorosensor was able to trace microscopic fuel remnants more than a week after Swissair Flight 111 went down and helped to establish the planes final flight path.

Detection of Substances

One of the areas of rapidly evolving research is the technology associated with monitoring and controlling the release of substances to the environment. Here are some examples of 1998-99 research relating to the detection of substances:

  • A Reference Method EPS 1/RM/36 (March 1999) for the measurement of gaseous emissions to the atmosphere from gas turbines and reciprocating engines was submitted to support the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) National Emission Guidelines for nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide.

  • Significant progress was made in the development and application of tools and bioassays used to detect environmental EDS and to measure their effects. For example, to detect environmental estrogens, a trout vitellogenin (egg protein) bioassay was developed and used to test ambient water, complex effluents and pure chemicals. A semi-permeable membrane device was tested in a study in Hamilton Harbour and Lake Ontario for its effectiveness as a tool for predicting the response of fish to environmental estrogens and was found to be a good predictor of liver enzyme activity.

  • A Microwave-Assisted Process (MAPTM) liquid-phase extraction method, developed by the Environmental Technology Centre, reduces the use of toxic solvents and energy in analysing samples. It was validated in cooperation with the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

  • Researchers from the National Wildlife Research Centre discovered a new halogenated, heterocyclic substance in seabird eggs. Concentrations of the substance, tentatively identified as 1,1- dimethyltetrabromo-dichloro-2,2- bipyrrole, were found to be highest in Pacific seabirds, lower in those from the Atlantic and absent in Great Lakes birds. Researchers concluded that the compound is a natural bacterial product.

Development of Cost-efficient Tests for Substances

Cost-effective and scientifically reliable tests are essential for the ongoing monitoring of substances in the environment and for checks on particular substances. Here are some examples of tests developed by Environment Canada and Health Canada scientists that relate to the implementation of CEPA:

  • A test protocol has been established to evaluate the absorbent capacities of most types and brands of commercial oil sorbents. The new procedure, accepted in North America through the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), is published as ASTM Standard Method of Testing Sorbent Performance of Absorbents(# F726-99).

  • The Marine Environment Division of Environment Canada has been refining biological tests that can be used to evaluate chemical concentrations in sediment that is destined for disposal at sea. These biological tests are a follow-up to chemical tests that identify the presence of controlled substances. The bioassays use crustacean mortality, sea urchin reproduction, fluorescence from photoluminescent bacteria, changes in sea worm growth and bioaccumulation of material in one species of clam to determine if the sediment is suitable for ocean disposal.

  • Health Canada refined a method for identifying chromosome damage in a study using human sperm samples from the Health Canada Pesticide Exposure Assessment Study. The work showed how multiple toxicological endpoints can be combined in one study to increase efficiency and reduce the use of animals for testing.

  • Health Canada, in a project funded by Industry Canada's Canadian Biotechnology Strategy, conducted laboratory and field studies to validate new methods for detecting exposure to microbe-based biotechnology products. This work linked to a three-year study on the persistence of microbe-based biotechnology products in the environment and to a four-year study completed with the United States that showed, unequivocally, the immune- related hazards associated with biopesticide exposure of migrant workers.

  • Research has demonstrated that tests with embryonic liver cell cultures prepared from domestic chickens, Peking ducks and greater scaup and exposed to 18 different PAHs may be used to develop rapid and inexpensive bioassays. The bioassays can be used to predict the potencies of different PAH compounds and the sensitivities of different species to the effects from PAHs.

  • Health Canada develops, improves and assesses the significance of testing procedures (e.g., a uterotrophic bioassay and thyroid function assays) to screen chemicals for endocrine toxicity in the context of an international research effort on EDS.

Reduction in the Use, Release or Presence of Toxic Substances

Research and development can identify ways to reduce or avoid the use, release or presence of substances that may have a harmful effect on the environment.

  • The Environmental Technology Centre tested fuel additives, fuel catalysts and hydrogen generators that are sold to increase fuel efficiency and decrease consumption. Only two actually showed potential for reducing exhaust emissions. The Centre also developed a diagnostic tool that enables mechanics to detect and correct engine, drive-train and brake problems that cause excessive fuel consumption and emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. The Multi- Dynamometer SimulatorTM(Multi-DSTM) is being used at the Ottawa-Carleton Transit Authority facility in Ottawa.

  • The toxicity of DombindTM, a dust suppressant used on unpaved roads, was evaluated by scientists at the National Wildlife Research Centre. DombindTM was found to cause death in several amphibian species and to cause altered behaviour and weight loss in captive birds. These results were taken into consideration by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment when it decided to phase out the use of this product in Ontario.


Sample tests are used to establish the presence of toxic substances and verify compliance with CEPA regulations. In 1998-99, the Environmental Technology Centre:

  • analysed over 17 000 samples for the presence of toxic substances, in support of the NAPS Network,
  • tested, along with the Wastewater Technology Centre, legal samples taken in Quebec and Ontario for enforcement purposes,
  • conducted an emissions audit of 22 new light-duty vehicle models, including motorcycle exhaust emission testing, and
  • collaborated with the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management and the United States Environmental Protection Agency to investigate "real-world" emissions from off-road construction equipment.


An important contribution to pollution prevention is the sharing of expertise - internally, among regional and national offices of Environment Canada, and externally, with other federal, provincial and territorial government departments, the public, international agencies and foreign governments.

  • Environment Canada maintains an extensive web site, which is a major source of CEPA-related information.

  • In 1998-99, scientists at the Environmental Technology Centre responded to environmental emergencies by providing scientific assistance and advice to the:
    • Newfoundland District Office regarding oiled birds,
    • Atlantic Region after the crash of Swissair Flight 111,
    • Quebec Region on the PCB content of oiled beach material,
    • Manitoba District Office on sampling automotive residue for PCBs, and
    • Pacific and Yukon Region concerning a liquefied petroleum facility.
  • During 1998-99, Environment Canada provided partial funding to the three Canadian Environmental Technology Advancement Centres (CETACs), which operate at arms length from government. These Centres, with offices in four provinces, provided advice to over 350 Canadian small and medium-sized businesses on ways to commercialize innovative environmental technologies. The Centres' primary focus was on those technologies that address national environmental priorities and contribute to economic growth. The Ontario Centre also piloted an Eco-efficiency Innovation Initiative, working with various government agencies and industrial sectors to help them to identify and implement more eco-efficient ways of doing business.

  • In 1998, an interactive software package on sustainable community indicators was tested in six communities, with positive results. The software helps communities select indicators to assess and monitor their progress towards sustainable development. It also facilitates the exchange of indicator-related information.

Objectives, Guidelines and Codes of Practice

Environmental Quality Guidelines and Objectives

Environmental quality guidelines and objectives are established under CEPA Part I for air, soil, sediment and freshwater and marine water quality. Water, soil and sediment quality guidelines are endorsed by the CCME prior to their publication and are widely used across Canadian jurisdictions for managing toxic substance risks in the environment. Although guidelines are not laws, they may form the basis for laws and regulations. In the case of persistent and bioaccumulative toxic substances, they may act as "action levels" - interim management objectives that assist with tracking progress towards the virtual elimination of the substances.

During 1998-99, over 40 national guidelines for water, soil and sediment quality were finalized and approved by CCME. More than 10 more were under development. These guidelines specify a limit or concentration of a substance in the environment that is recommended in order to protect and sustain the environment and its uses.

Water Quality Guidelines

Finalized: benzene, colour, didecyldimethyl-ammonium chloride (DDAC), dissolved gas supersaturation, dissolved oxygen, HCBD, 3-iodo-2-propynyl butyl carbonate (IPBC), reactive chlorine species, styrene and total particulate matter
Under way: aluminum, ammonia, copper, inorganic fluoride, selenium and silver

Sediment Quality Guidelines

Finalized: seven metals, 13 individual PAHs and five organochlorine pesticides (marine and freshwater sediments)

Soil Quality Guidelines

Finalized: cadmium, chromium, copper, ethylene glycol, lead, mercury and zinc (for protection of agricultural, residential, commercial and industrial land uses)
Under way: selenium and uranium
Assessment in progress: petroleum hydrocarbons

Tissue Quality Guidelines

Finalized: dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), PCBs and toxaphene
Under way: dioxins and furans

Marine Monitoring Guidelines

Under the Disposal at Sea Program, monitoring guidelines have been developed, field tested and phased in to routine disposal site monitoring. In September 1998, a national guidance document was finalized to update the interim monitoring guidelines from 1993. Details on monitoring conducted at representative sites are available in the Compendia of Monitoring Activities at Ocean Disposal Sites, 1994-1997.

Multi-media Document on Environmental Quality Guidelines

Work continued on the comprehensive multi-media document Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines, 1999. This document summarizes environmental toxicity data and environmental quality guidelines for over 100 toxic substances in air, soil, water, sediment and tissue for the protection of both human and environmental health. It is the most comprehensive compilation of ambient environmental quality guidelines in the world and will be released by CCME in hard copy and on CD-ROM in late 1999.

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