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ARCHIVED - Proposed Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem

Annex 2 - Harmful pollutants

  1. Preamble
  2. Goals
  3. Results
  4. Definitions

I Preamble

The Harmful Pollutants Annex (Annex 2) addresses both past (legacy) and on-going sources of pollution in the Great Lakes Basin, focusing on principles of pollution reduction and prevention to achieve the vision of a healthy, prosperous and sustainable Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem. Annex 2 takes a substance and/or sector approach to reduce and prevent releases throughout the Basin and seeks to virtually eliminate persistent bioaccumulative toxic substances, such as Tier 1 substances. Work in this annex is linked to activities elsewhere in the Agreement that address harmful pollutants on a local (Annex 1), lakewide or drinking water source (Annex 3) basis. Harmful pollutant issues identified in the other annexes are referred to Annex 2 if a substance- or sector-based approach is warranted.

Based on the 2005 release inventory, significant reductions in releases have been achieved for Tier 1 substances through work under the 1994 and 2002 Canada-Ontario Agreements Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem and the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Binational Toxics Strategy, namely:

  • Benzo(a)pyrene: 52% since 1988
  • Dioxins & Furans: 89% since 1988
  • Hexachlorobenzene: 73% since 1988
  • Mercury: 86% since 1988
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs): 89% since 1993

Notwithstanding these significant reductions, further efforts are required to address the last remaining sources of Tier 1 substances. This can be challenging since they may be widely dispersed and/or have sources outside the Basin. Similar challenges are faced in addressing Criteria Air Pollutants (associated with smog formation). Our current emphasis is on the development of policies and programs that address these challenges.

Another challenge is how to address the many other chemical substances present in the Great Lakes Basin, such as Tier 2 substances and substances of emerging concern, which may be impacting human health or the environment. Categorization of substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, as well as research and monitoring by federal and provincial governments, has identified many substances that require further assessment and action. This Annex brings this information together to prioritize actions with appropriate sectors in the Basin and in response to the priorities established under Annex 3. Additionally, because many substances of emerging concern are present in, or as, consumer products, efforts will include education and outreach to Great Lakes communities to reduce exposure and releases to the environment.

Delivery of the expected results of Annex 2 will be facilitated by the continued cooperation of Canada and Ontario in initiatives to develop environmental policies, best management practices and technologies, as well as conduct scientific research. For example, Canada and Ontario have been working with other provinces and territories to reduce releases of harmful pollutants from municipal wastewater treatment facilities across the country and have committed to advance this work in the Great Lakes Basin in cooperation with municipalities. Complementing this initiative are collaborative projects to evaluate new treatment technologies and to develop best practices for the land application of biosolids. Additionally, investment in scientific research to improve understanding of the sources, fate and impacts of harmful pollutants will assist the development of reduction and risk mitigation actions that protect both human health and the environment.

II Goals

The Parties have identified three goals that will demonstrate progress toward the virtual elimination of persistent bioaccumulative toxic substances and significant reductions of other harmful pollutants. They are:

  1. Continue progress toward virtual elimination of persistent bioaccumulative toxic substances;

  2. Reduce other harmful pollutants and initiate a program for managing chemical substances for the Great Lakes Basin; and

  3. Enhance knowledge regarding harmful pollutants for the development of policies and programs to further reduce releases and mitigate risk.

III Results

Result 1 - Reduction in releases of Tier 1 substances beyond the 2005 achievements towards the goal of virtual elimination.

Persistent bioaccumulative toxic substances, including those on the Tier 1 list, are of particular concern because they can continue to threaten fish, wildlife and human health long after releases are discontinued. Based on the most up-to-date inventory (from 2005) the Parties expect to achieve, by 2010, reductions in releases of more than 90% for dioxins & furans and mercury, 75% for hexachlorobenzene and 55% for benzo(a)pyrene (relative to a 1988 baseline), and more than 90% for high-level polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) (relative to a 1993 baseline).

Canada and Ontario will:
  1. Continue education and outreach initiatives and activities to reduce releases of Tier 1 substances through the promotion of environmentally sound practices and pollution prevention measures. These include sustaining outreach activities to reduce household waste burning and to encourage sound practices for wood burning in wood stoves and outdoor wood boilers; and

  2. Undertake additional projects to achieve reductions of Tier 1 substances from both in-basin and out-of-basin sources. These include pollution prevention, voluntary agreements and best management practices.
Canada will:
  1. Amend the PCBs regulations to include timelines for PCBs use and limit their storage.
Ontario will:
  1. Continue to work with municipalities and other agencies to increase diversion of materials containing Tier 1 substances from the waste stream. This includes collecting thermostats, fluorescent lamps, and targeted pesticides as well as sharing best management practices; and

  2. Carry out commitments to Canada-wide Standards (CWS) for mercury and dioxins/furans through continued review of incinerator performance, development of compliance promotion strategies and implementation of standards and guidelines.

Result 2 - Reduction in releases of Criteria Air Pollutants.

Criteria Air Pollutants are associated with the formation of smog. Efforts under this result are directed towards reductions in releases of smog precursors within Ontario as well as working with other jurisdictions to reduce transport of smog to Ontario.

Canada and Ontario will:
  1. Continue to implement the commitments under the Canada-United States Air Quality Agreement, Anti-Smog Action Plan, and Canada-Wide Standards related to Criteria Air Pollutants; and

  2. Work with jurisdictions bordering Ontario and/or the Great Lakes to exchange information and cooperatively reduce transboundary transport of Criteria Air Pollutants.
Canada will:
  1. Continue to work with existing sector-based and small-medium enterprise (SME) agreements to reduce the releases of Criteria Air Pollutants and other harmful pollutants. This could include audit programs and development of a green supply network; and

  2. Continue to explore opportunities to implement diesel retrofits on municipal fleets, school buses and diesel engines in other sectors to reduce Criteria Air Pollutants and other harmful pollutants.
Ontario will:
  1. Continue to develop anti-smog initiatives, including codes of practice for priority sectors; and

  2. Continue to develop and implement policies that will contribute towards Ontario's emission reduction targets of 45% reduction from 1990 levels for both nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, and 50% reduction from Ontario's Countdown Acid Rain limit, by 2015 or sooner. Continue to evaluate progress and consider accelerating the nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compound emission reduction target date from 2015 to 2010.

Result 3 - Coordinated activities to reduce releases from municipal wastewater.

Substances of concern to human health and the environment are discharged to sewer systems from industries, businesses and households. Many municipalities have implemented sewer use bylaws, increased capacity and/or enhanced treatment to reduce loadings of harmful pollutants to the aquatic environment from this pathway. Canada and Ontario have been working with other provinces and territories through the Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment (CCME) to develop a Canada-wide strategy for the management of municipal wastewater effluents and will work with municipalities in the Great Lakes Basin to implement programs, regulations and policies consistent with the Strategy.

Canada and Ontario will:
  1. Negotiate an agreement for the purpose of implementing the federal wastewater effluent regulations and work with other provinces and territories to finalize the CCME Canada-wide Strategy; and

  2. Investigate optimization of existing facilities and evaluate the potential of new technologies with respect to improving removal of harmful pollutants from wastewater effluents and sludges, and transfer this knowledge to municipalities and others owner/operators to assist in their efforts to reduce pollutant releases.
Canada will:
  1. Develop effluent quality instruments for wastewater systems on "federal land" and "aboriginal land", both as defined in the Canadian Environment Protection Act, 1999, to support the implementation of the wastewater effluent regulations.
Ontario will:
  1. Update its policies for municipal discharges, including a harmful pollutants component, in a manner consistent with the goals of the CCME Canada-wide Strategy that is protective of the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem;

  2. Support and work with municipalities and sewer users to identify and reduce sources of harmful pollutants to sewers through promotion and implementation of sewer use best management practices and other voluntary measures; and

  3. Develop best management practices for biosolids to reduce potential offsite contamination.

Result 4 - Develop and initiate a program for the Sound Management of Chemical Substances in the Great Lakes Basin.

In addition to Tier 1 substances and Criteria Air Pollutants, Tier 2 substances and substances of emerging concern have been detected in the Great Lakes Basin. The Parties will identify substances for action and will work with sectors and Great Lakes communities to develop programs to reduce releases from the manufacture of chemical substances and from the use and disposal of agricultural and consumer products that contain these substances.

Canada and Ontario will:
  1. Develop a revised list of substances for action and associated sectors in the Great Lakes Basin;

  2. Compile an inventory of federal and provincial programs, and consult with federal and state agencies in the United States on joint reduction opportunities for the substances identified for action;

  3. Consult with sectors (i.e., industries, municipalities, agriculture) to identify opportunities and develop programs and projects for reductions in uses and/or releases;

  4. Promote and support the development of best practices for reducing or eliminating the production, use and/or release of substances identified for action. This includes support for applied scientific or technological studies as well as the demonstration of environmental technologies;

  5. Carry out education and outreach to Great Lakes communities, especially vulnerable populations, to reduce their exposure and their contribution to environmental releases and develop additional programs for the safe collection and disposal of consumer products containing substances of concern, such as pharmaceuticals; and

  6. Enhance pollutant releases profiles in the Great Lakes Basin using various available inventories, such as the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) and the US Toxics Release Inventory, and issue a report on this information.
Canada will:
  1. Implement activities to address substances identified under Canada's Chemicals Management Plan that are of concern within the Great Lakes Basin. This may include examining substances identified as high priorities, collecting information on potential releases to the Great Lakes, developing national preventive and control measures, and promoting environmental monitoring to track progress; and

  2. Continue to lead the implementation of the Great Lakes Binational Toxics Strategy and develop links with the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation to promote reductions in releases within the Basin as well as transport of harmful pollutants to the Basin from other jurisdictions.
Ontario will:
  1. Continue to participate in the Great Lakes Binational Toxics Strategy and contribute to reduction activities;

  2. Undertake outreach initiatives to promote pollution prevention and influence further reductions in discharges from Municipal/Industrial Strategy for Abatement (MISA) sectors and facilities, and examine and implement new policies to manage aqueous industrial discharges and dischargers not currently captured under MISA.

  3. Work with farm organizations and industry representatives to develop an enhanced program for the safe collection and disposal of agricultural pesticides and containers that includes expired/unused veterinary pharmaceuticals; and

  4. Enhance education and outreach within the agricultural sector regarding best management practices that reduce potential impacts of pesticide use on water quality, including the development of tools to monitor agricultural pesticide use.

Result 5 - Improved understanding of the sources, fate and impacts of harmful pollutants in the Great Lakes Basin.

Research and monitoring have been conducted by the Parties in cooperation with academia and others to understand the sources, fate and impact of harmful pollutants to human health and the environment in the Great Lakes Basin. Collaborative studies will continue to further increase understanding of harmful pollutants released to the Great Lakes environment.

Canada and Ontario will:
  1. Collect and develop more comprehensive data on pollutant releases and sources to facilitate risk assessments associated with harmful pollutants in the Great Lakes Basin;

  2. Collaboratively research the occurrence, persistence, fate, and environmental and health impacts of substances of known and emerging concern and discharges from sectors, with the support and participation of industries and other sectors;

  3. Continue to monitor and report on status and trends of substances of known and emerging concern in various media to support policy and program decision-making; and

  4. Maintain profiles of Tier 1 substances and develop and maintain inventories of substances targeted for action.

Result 6 - Human health risks from harmful pollutants are understood and addressed in the Great Lakes Basin

Environmental quality and human health are linked, with humans acting as both sources and receptors of environmental contamination. Under the Agreement, there will be a focus on human health to increase understanding of the risks from harmful pollutants and identify ways to reduce releases and/or exposure.

Canada and Ontario will:
  1. Support and facilitate the activities of environmental public health networks in the Great Lakes Basin; and

  2. Cooperate in the development of standards, guidelines and protocols for the protection of human health and the environment that may be applied in the Great Lakes Basin.
Canada will:
  1. Develop a Health Science Framework to guide and facilitate health science activities undertaken by researchers and other health scientists.

  2. Implement activities to address substances identified under Canada's Chemicals Management Plan that are of human health concern.
Ontario will:
  1. Develop and implement programs for the protection of health in Great Lakes communities through the application of national strategies for the protection of children's environmental health; and

  2. Carry out research to evaluate impacts on human health of harmful pollutants in the Great Lakes Basin to support the development of policies and programs.

IV Definitions

Criteria Air Pollutants
Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), particulate matter less than 10 microns (PM10), particulate matter less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5).

A release of a substance directly or indirectly into a water body.

A release of a substance to the air.

harmful pollutants
Substances having a deleterious impact on environmental or human health. Substances on the Tier 1 and Tier 2 lists, substances of emerging concern, and Criteria Air Pollutants are examples of harmful pollutants.

The amount (concentration x flow) of a substance being emitted or discharged.

pollution prevention
The use of processes, practices, materials, products, substances or energy that avoid or minimize the creation of pollutants and waste and reduce the overall risk to the environment or human health.

An air emission or aqueous discharge, depending on the context.

Tier 1
Includes the 11 critical pollutants identified by the International Joint Commission, plus critical pollutants identified in the Niagara River and Lake Ontario Toxic Management Plans and the Lake Superior Binational Program. Tier 1 pollutants are targeted for virtual elimination. Tier 1 substances include:
  • Aldrin/dieldrin*
  • Alkyl-lead*
  • Benzo(a)pyrene
  • Chlordane*
  • DDT*
  • Hexachlorobenzene
  • Mercury
  • Mirex*
  • Octachlorostyrene
  • PCBs
  • PCDD (dioxins)
  • PCDF (furans)
  • Toxaphene*

Note:* denotes substances that are no longer being used or released in Ontario.

Tier 2
Includes substances identified as having the potential for causing widespread impacts, or have already caused local adverse impacts on the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem. Tier 2 substances include:
  • Anthracene
  • Cadmium
  • 1,4-dichlorobenzene
  • 3,3'-dichlorobenzidine
  • Tributyl tin
  • Dinitropyrene
  • Hexachlorocyclohexane
  • 4,4"-methylenebis(2-chloraniline)
  • Pentachlorophenol

Plus 17 PAHs as a group, including but not limited to:
  • Benzo(a)anthracene
  • Benzo(b)fluoranthene
  • Perylene
  • Phenanthrene
  • Benzo(g,h,i)perylene

virtual elimination
There is "no measurable release" of a substance to the environment.
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