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Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health, 2014

ANNEX 2: HARMFUL POLLUTANTS

The purpose of this Annex is to guide cooperative and coordinated actions to reduce or eliminate releases of harmful pollutants into the Great Lakes basin.

For over 40 years, Canada and Ontario have been working together to reduce or eliminate the release of harmful pollutants into the Great Lakes basin.

Under the 1994 Canada-Ontario Agreement, specific harmful pollutants were targeted for action and identified as Tier I Substances (chemicals targeted for virtual elimination or zero discharge from sources within the Great Lakes as well as for global efforts to eliminate out-of-basin sources) and Tier II Substances (chemicals that had the potential for widespread impacts in the Great Lakes or were already causing local adverse impacts). There have been significant accomplishments in reducing the presence of a number of these in the Great Lakes basin, including a more than 90 percent reduction in Canadian releases of mercury, dioxins and furans, and a more than 90 percent reduction in the amount of high-level PCBs in storage in Ontario. The concentrations of these chemicals are significantly lower in the sediments, offshore waters and fish of the Great Lakes.

Notwithstanding these successes, further efforts may be required to better understand the potential impact of some of these chemicals on the Great Lakes ecosystem and, where appropriate, to undertake new or additional risk management actions. Also, there is a need to address many other chemicals that are used and released into the Great Lakes basin, which are known to or suspected to pose an increased risk to human health or the environment. For example, by 2006 the Government of Canada categorized approximately 23,000 chemicals in commerce, in order to identify the highest priorities for assessing potential risks to human health or the environment in Canada. Many of these chemicals are being used by the growing population of the Great Lakes region and are being released into the basin.  

Canada and Ontario are actively engaged in programs and initiatives designed to assess and manage the risks posed by certain chemicals to human health and the environment. Federal initiatives include the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP), which assesses and manages the risks posed by chemicals in accordance with federal laws, including the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, the Pest Control Products Act, the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, the Food and Drugs Act and the Fisheries Act. International efforts under the CMP, for example the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants or the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution, can contribute to reductions of releases of Chemicals of Concern from out-of-basin sources that are deposited within the Great Lakes basin. Provincial initiatives aimed at protecting human health include the elimination of stand-alone coal-fired electricity generation by the end of 2014, local air quality regulations, the Toxics Reduction Act, 2009 and a Toxics Reduction Strategy, which includes the banning of cosmetic pesticides.

This Annex contains commitments to complete a status report of chemicals identified as Tier I and Tier II substances; establish a Canada-Ontario Chemicals Management Committee; establish a process to identify Chemicals of Concern in the Great Lakes and to cooperate on specific research, monitoring, surveillance, and risk management actions for these Chemicals of Concern; and take actions to reduce risks and impacts from environmental emergencies and spills, and from stormwater and wastewater contaminant loadings.

Goal 1: Consistent with the principles of this Agreement, complete a review of chemicals identified as Tier I and Tier II substances under previous agreements between Canada and Ontario relating to the Great Lakes and continue to implement management actions in the Great Lakes.

Result 1.1 – Report on past and current research, monitoring and risk management activities and achievements related to chemicals identified as Tier I and Tier II substances in previous Agreements between Canada and Ontario relating to the Great Lakes.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Within six months of the Agreement coming into force, develop and finalize a status report summarizing past and current research, monitoring and risk management activities and achievements on chemicals identified as Tier I and Tier II.

Result 1.2 – Consistent with the principles of the Agreement, continue to implement actions to manage Tier I and Tier II substances within the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Continue to implement actions to manage Tier I and Tier II substances within the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem; and

  • (b) Share with the Great Lakes community, through existing mechanisms, new information on the management of Tier I and Tier II substances.

Ontario will:

  • (c) Continue to work with municipalities and other agencies to increase diversion of materials containing Tier I and Tier II substances from the waste stream;

  • (d) Undertake compliance promotion strategies and implementation of standards and guidelines to further reduce Tier I and Tier II substances;

  • (e) Continue education and outreach initiatives and activities to reduce releases of legacy substances through the promotion of environmentally sound practices and pollution prevention measures; and

  • (f) Undertake additional projects to achieve reductions of legacy substances from both in-basin and out-of-basin sources. These projects include pollution prevention, voluntary agreements and best management practices.

Goal 2: Identify chemicals of concern in the Great Lakes basin and undertake actions, as appropriate, to reduce or eliminate their use and release within and into the Great Lakes basin.

Result 2.1A work plan is developed for achieving the goals, results and commitments set forth in this Annex as they pertain to chemicals.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Within six months of this Agreement coming into force, establish a work plan and timelines to achieve the commitments for Chemicals of Concern. Components of this work plan will include: a process for identifying and designating Chemicals of Concern, including candidate binational chemicals of mutual concern; the preparation of the Canadian component of binational strategies for chemicals of mutual concern; taking actions, as appropriate, to address these chemicals; and reporting on Chemicals of Concern, binational strategies and associated activities.

Result 2.2 – Chemicals of Concern are identified and periodically reviewed.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Establish a process:
    1. By which each jurisdiction can nominate candidate chemicals for consideration as Chemicals of Concern under this Annex, which could include chemicals identified previously as Tier I and Tier II;
    2. Under which, both jurisdictions reach agreement on identifying and designating Chemicals of Concern for priority action under this Annex;
    3. By which Chemicals of Concern will be proposed, where appropriate, for nomination to the Canada-United States Chemicals of Mutual Concern Subcommittee of the binational Great Lakes Executive Committee; and
    4. For conducting periodic reviews of currently designated Chemicals of Concern;
  • (b) Consistent with the principles of this Agreement, for each of their respective candidate Chemicals of Concern, provide supporting rationale for nominating the chemical as a Chemical of Concern, including but not limited to:
    1. Surveillance and monitoring data and/or other surrogate information (i.e., key industrial sectors and other sources of exposure) which indicates presence or a reasonable potential for presence in the Great Lakes and also any evidence that the chemical is having a demonstrated or likely detrimental impact on the Great Lakes;
    2. An overview of historical and current pollution prevention and control actions; and
    3. An identification of information and/or technology gaps;
  • (c) Agree to the designation of Chemicals of Concern for priority action in the Great Lakes basin. The first of these Chemicals of Concern shall be designated, at the latest, within two years of this Agreement entering into force;

  • (d) Determine those Chemicals of Concern for nomination to the Canada-United States Chemicals of Mutual Concern Subcommittee of the binational Great Lakes Executive Committee, as proposed binational chemicals of mutual concern;

  • (e) For those chemicals nominated by the United States for consideration as binational chemicals of mutual concern, consider whether to identify these as Chemicals of Concern under this Agreement; and

  • (f) Periodically review the identified Chemicals of Concern and any new federal or provincial candidate chemicals, to determine whether they should remain or be included, respectively, as priorities for action in the Great Lakes basin.

Canada will:

  • (g) Nominate Chemicals of Concern for action to the Canada-United States Chemicals of Mutual Concern Subcommittee of the binational Great Lakes Executive Committee, for consideration as binational chemicals of mutual concern.

Result 2.3 – Releases of Chemicals of Concern are reduced or eliminated within the Great Lakes basin.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Under their respective authorities, programs and strategies and in consultation with relevant sectors, as required, promote and support: life-cycle management; the use of safer chemical substances; best management practices and technologies which reduce or eliminate the use and release of Chemicals of Concern; and products containing Chemicals of Concern;

  • (b) Collaborate and coordinate, as appropriate, on activities to support reducing or eliminating the use and release of Chemicals of Concern and products containing Chemicals of Concern, using approaches that are accountable, adaptive and science-based;

  • (c) Where potential overlap exists between actions taken or proposed at both the federal and provincial levels, work in cooperation to minimize overlap and duplication, while maximizing environmental and health benefits;

  • (d) Periodically review and evaluate the progress and effectiveness of pollution prevention and control activities for Chemicals of Concern, adapting approaches as required;

  • (e) Cooperatively develop and implement the Canadian component of binational strategies for chemicals of mutual concern, where appropriate, as agreed to under the Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement; and

  • (f) Cooperatively review and evaluate progress towards implementing binational strategies for chemicals of mutual concern and adapt management approaches and other actions as required.

Canada will:

  • (g) Work with continental and other international governments to reduce or eliminate the deposition of transboundary Chemicals of Concern; and

  • (h) For pollution prevention or control measures implemented under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 or other federal Acts for Chemicals of Concern, deliver compliance promotion and enforcement actions as appropriate.

Ontario will:

  • (i) Support and enhance stewardship programs to improve waste diversion, take-back and proper disposal of harmful pollutants;

  • (j) Work with key sectors to develop, support and enhance programs and best management practices that reduce the release of Chemicals of Concern;

  • (k) Work with small and medium-sized enterprises, and others, who discharge to municipal sewer systems to reduce their inputs of Chemicals of Concern to these systems;

  • (l) Work with academia, industry, municipalities and stakeholders to promote the development of green technologies and activities supporting green chemistry;

  • (m) Enhance education and outreach on Chemicals of Concern in consumer products; and

  • (n) Engage Great Lakes communities, especially those that rely on fish as an important nutritional source for their diet, on reducing their potential exposure to Chemicals of Concern.

Result 2.4 – Environmental quality criteria, which include guidelines, objectives, and/or standards, for Chemicals of Concern are established.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Work together to develop environmental quality criteria for Chemicals of Concern, as required; and

  • (b) Review and address, as appropriate, exceedances of federal or Ontario or Canadian environmental quality criteria for Chemicals of Concern.

Canada will:

  • (c) Maintain, periodically review and make publically available a listing of current federal and Canadian environmental quality criteria for chemicals.

Ontario will:

  • (d) Develop technology-based standards to support reductions in emissions to air of provincial candidate Chemicals of Concern.

Goal 3: Advance knowledge regarding chemicals of concern for the enhancement or development of policies and programs to further reduce releases and mitigate risks.

Result 3.1 – A Canada-Ontario Chemicals Management Committee is established to foster coordination and cooperation on the management of chemicals in the Great Lakes.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Establish a Canada-Ontario Chemicals Management Committee responsible for the management of chemicals, including meeting all of the goals, results and commitments set forth in this Annex;

  • (b) Ensure there are strong linkages and open communication between the Canada-Ontario Chemicals Management Committee and the COA Executive Committee, and with other Great Lakes governance bodies that have a role in addressing Great Lakes issues, or that could have an impact on the commitments under this Annex;

  • (c) Share data on research, monitoring, surveillance, and related science activities and information on uses and releases that is collected under their respective chemicals management programs and strategies with each other and within the Great Lakes community, where appropriate;

  • (d) Facilitate the exchange of information including the sharing of confidential business information, as appropriate;

  • (e) Engage and draw on the expertise related to chemicals of the Great Lakes community as needed to achieve the goals of this Annex;

  • (f) Exchange information regularly on their respective public outreach activities, as appropriate, to ensure that information regarding chemicals and their management is effectively communicated to the public; and

  • (g) Cooperate on First Nations, Métis and stakeholder engagement activities, as appropriate, to ensure their participation in the implementation of chemicals management programs and activities.

Result 3.2 – Research, surveillance and monitoring activities for Chemicals of Concern are delivered in a cooperative, coordinated and integrated fashion as appropriate.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Under their respective authorities, programs and strategies, conduct coordinated research, monitoring and surveillance activities for Chemicals of Concern within the Great Lakes basin, which may include:
    1. Identifying and assessing the occurrences, sources, loadings, transport and impacts of Chemicals of Concern;
    2. Evaluating the effect of Chemicals of Concern, and combinations thereof, on human and ecosystem health;
    3. Coordinating research, monitoring and surveillance activities to provide early warning for chemicals which could become Chemicals of Concern;
    4. Reviewing and prioritizing research needs on a regular basis, taking into account progress made; and
    5. Developing, improving and validating sampling and analytical tools, methods and techniques for the measurement of Chemicals of Concern that impact human and ecological health in the environment as well as evaluating their potential impacts.

Goal 4: Risks and impacts resulting from environmental emergencies and spills, and from stormwater and wastewater contaminant loadings are reduced.

Result 4.1 – Joint spill prevention, preparedness, response and recovery efforts are strengthened.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Continue to cooperate on activities to support the prevention of, preparedness for, response to and recovery from environmental emergencies and spills in the Great Lakes basin including:
    1. Ensuring effective plans and protocols are in place in order to provide clarity on roles and responsibilities;
    2. Using spill trend data to identify key risk areas and shared emergency priorities;
    3. Ensuring necessary training and relevant emergency exercises are undertaken; and
    4. Ensuring effective communication and information sharing between emergency response agencies and affected communities;
  • (b) Review the recommendations in the 2012 Report entitled “Emergency Preparedness and Response Programs for Oil and Hazardous Materials Spills” from the Great Lakes Commission Emergency Preparedness Task Force and implement recommendations where appropriate and feasible; and

  • (c) Review the recommendations in the 2013 Canada-Ontario Great Lakes Spills Prevention and Response Review, and implement the recommendations where appropriate and feasible.

Result 4.2 – Contaminant loadings from stormwater and wastewater collection and treatment facilities in urban and rural communities are reduced.

Canada and Ontario will:

  • (a) Consistent with Lakewide Action and Management Plans (LAMPs), identify and promote priority actions for contaminants (emerging and conventional) and pathogens from wastewater treatment plants, urban and rural stormwater, rural domestic septic systems and other rural sources; and

  • (b) Promote eligible investments that support the reduction of contaminant and pathogen loadings as priority considerations under applicable infrastructure and other funding programs.

Ontario will:

  • (c) Undertake research to help determine the risks of exposure of pathogens from municipal wastewater effluent, combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and stormwater to bathers and to drinking water systems (e.g., better understanding of the levels of pathogens (including protozoa, virus) in effluent, CSOs and stormwater from different types of disinfection (e.g., chlorine, peracetic acid, ultraviolet, ozone));

  • (d) Update Ontario municipal wastewater policy, including policies specific to stormwater, CSOs, and pathogens and contaminants in treated effluent;

  • (e) Improve tracking of sewage overflows and bypasses, and continue to monitor incidents and municipal actions to minimize overflows and bypasses and achieve co-benefits of pathogen and contaminant reduction, as a means to encourage municipalities to complete and implement Pollution Prevention Control Plans;

  • (f) Monitor the performance and effectiveness of stormwater and green infrastructure projects and communicate results including any co-benefits for pathogen and contaminant reductions; and

  • (g) Explore research, monitoring and surveillance opportunities related to the management of at-source and upstream treatment technologies under their respective authorities to address harmful pollutants in wastewater effluents and residuals.
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