Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) recently suggested that scientists working near Terrace Bay meet with local residents. ECCC field crew members were joined by an Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) Great Lakes Environmental Scientist. The result was a unique learning experience for local residents during a June 21st gathering.
Area of Concern
Scientist were in the Terrace Bay area as part of efforts to track environmental conditions at Jackfish Bay on Lake Superior and also Blackbird Creek, which winds some 14 km./8 mi. from Terrace Bay to Jackfish Bay. The stream receives effluent from the Aditya Birla Terrace Bay mill. Both the creek and Jackfish Bay were declared a Great Lakes “Area of Concern” in 1987 due to problems associated with contamination.
Contaminants of concern in Blackbird Creek and Jackfish Bay include dioxins and furans, which resulted from elemental chlorine bleaching of pulp at the Terrace Bay mill. These problems resulted from the earlier days of mill operation and regulations are now much more stringent. Process changes (e.g. elimination of chlorine bleaching, secondary treatment), and regulatory monitoring and reporting requirements resulted in improved effluent quality, especially related to turbidity, Total Suspended Solids, Sulfur, Biological Oxygen Demand, pH, Total Phosphorus, metals, phenols, resin fatty acids, chloroform, toluene, and dioxins (LU 2010).
“In Recovery” Designation
In 2011, Jackfish Bay AOC was formally declared an Area of Concern in Recovery, and it was determined that monitored natural recovery was the mechanism of action to be taken into the future. This “In Recovery” designation was based on both government and community consensus after all scientifically feasible and economically reasonable actions were implemented and additional time was required for the environment to recover.
Each scientist at the gathering explained the portion of the field work for which they were responsible. First, an ECCC representative shared long-term questions meant to inform monitoring, as follows:
(1) What is the contribution of suspended sediment to Jackfish Bay and its Moberly Bay arm, measured in both quality and quantity?
(2) What is the estimated time for environmental recovery in the Blackbird Creek/Jackfish Bay system?
(3) What is the safe sediment concentration to ensure protection of insect-eating birds and mammals, and fish-eating mammals?
Answers in the Sediment
Terrace Bay and area residents learned that monitoring being carried out by ECCC is meant to assess the quality and quantity of suspended sediments flowing out of Black Bird Creek and into Jackfish Bay. ECCC representatives explained that the study will assess whether the creek is still a source of dioxin/furans and other contaminants, and if so, how much. They also said the study will asses how much suspended sediment is coming from the creek.
MOECC’s Great Lakes Environmental Scientist explained that data acquired through the monitoring process will assist in estimating the time required to reach safe sediment concentrations. MOECC will be establishing these safe sediment concentrations as part of the 2017 study.
MOECC’s Great Lakes Environmental Scientist explained that MOECC’s summer 2017 field work will address item #3 above by developing a site-specific bioaccumulation model for organisms living in sediment, with the end goal of determining a safe sediment concentration for dioxins and furans. Local residents learned that safe sediment concentrations will be determined using data from the top 3 cm. of sediment at 7 stations, also fish tissue collected during the 2017 field season, and previously collected tissue from sediment dwelling organisms.
Cooperation with Aditya Birla
Residents from the Terrace Bay area were happy to have the opportunity to interact with Great Lakes Scientists and commented on the positive cooperation between federal and provincial environmental agencies. All agreed that cooperation with Aditya Birla Terrace Bay would provide additional insight into environnmental conditions. The mill carries out regular environmental monitoring.
While Terrace Bay mayor Jody Davis sent regrets due to a previous engagement, the Town of Schreiber was represented by Chief Administrative Officer Don McArthur, also residents of Terrace Bay, Rossport and representatives of both Aditya Birla Terrace Bay as well as the Métis Nation of Ontario.
Support for the Jackfish Bay Remedial Action Plan is provided by Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Lakehead University.