Information about ecosystem health in the Jackfish Bay Area of Concern on Lake Superior was presented at a public meeting in Terrace Bay on the evening of October 19th. Jackfish Bay is located just east of the Town of Terrace Bay, Ontario. This location was designated as a Great Lakes “Area of Concern” requiring a Remedial Action Plan, or cleanup plan, in 1987. In addition to Jackfish Bay itself, pollution let to some 15 km. of Blackbird Creek between Terrace Bay and the creek mouth at Jackfish Bay being included in the Area of Concern.
Environmental monitoring to gauge ecosystem conditions has been carried out both before and after 2011 when “in recovery” status was applied to the Blackbird Creek and Jackfish Bay ecosystem.
The environmental monitoring presentation was led by representatives of Environment and Climate Change Canada. Contaminant monitoring locations were shown on a map, noting that sampling was focused on Moberly Bay (the western arm of Jackfish Bay) and that work included sediment analysis, benthic community assessment (small bottom dwelling aquatic organisms), and sediment toxicity studies. Three benthic species were collected for tissue analysis of dioxins and furans in 2008 and 2013. A sediment trap study was also undertaken to assess contaminant levels in suspended sediment. This study showed that clean material is accumulating at a rate of approximately 2 mm. per year, that Dioxin/Furan concentrations are decreasing, and that monitored natural recovery is occurring through accumulation of newer, cleaner material.
The study pointed out that the process of natural recovery is being assisted by a thin layer of sediment which continues to cover up contamination. Additionally, the presentation pointed out that sediment concentrations of Dioxins and Furans are decreasing with time. Recent sediment data show much lower concentrations of these substances at the top 2 cm.
The presentation concluded with intended next steps including an assessment of Dioxins and Furans in suspended sediment, the amount of Dioxins and Furans entering Jackfish Bay from Blackbird Creek, a quality assessment for newly deposited sediment and an assessment of the length of time required for environmental recovery to acceptable levels.
Problems originally identified in the Jackfish Bay Area of Concern include the following:
- heavy metals,
- toxic organics,
- contaminated sediments,
- fish consumption advisories
- impacted biota due to industrial point sources (pulp mill)
- in-place pollutants (contaminated sediments).
The Terrace Bay mill now meets or exceeds all environmental regulations. The mill was fined in the recent past for environmental exceedences by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.
Remedial Action Plan representatives of Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) and Lakehead University were in attendance at the meeting, providing related expertise and responding to questions and comments.