Thunder Bay Harbour Contamination Raises Questions
Posted on: June 13, 2017
Aerial view of Thunder Bay North Harbour showing shoreline fine paper mill operations (circa 1980).

On June 7, 2017 the Public Advisory Committee to the Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan met. After introductions and a review of the previous meeting minutes the group moved on to the following agenda items:

North Harbour Contamination (presentation)

Jim Bailey provided an overview of mercury and other contaminated material in Thunder Bay North Harbour including the location, extent, toxicity and potential next steps. Curniss McGoldrick (Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change) followed this presentation with a review of the Environmental Review Tribunal order on the Superior Fine Papers property. The roles and responsibilities of the different agencies with respect to the Canada-Ontario Agreement were also discussed.

During discussion, the following questions/points were made:

Federally Contaminated Sites List

  • What is preventing the Thunder Bay North Harbour from being listed on the Federally Contaminated Sites list?
  • A question was asked about the Canada – US Binational agreement respecting the Great Lakes basin ecosystem (the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement) and whether it included reference to resolution of Thunder Bay North Harbour contamination. An additional comment was made that if North Harbour was mentioned in the agreement, perhaps this could prove useful in assisting to have North Harbour added to the federal list of contaminated sites.
  • Is the Port Authority full aware of all the potential implications of being on the Federally Contaminated Sites list?
  • What are the health implications of fishing and other uses of the North Harbour area?
  • How is the contaminated sediment and solutions for North Harbour different than those for the Northern Wood Preservers (NOWPARC) project?


  • Is Cascades involved in remediation discussions as an industrial partner?
  • Abitibi as an entity has evolved to become part of Resolute Forest Products; what are Abitibi’s environmental responsibilities?
  • At some time there was a North Harbour Steering Committee which included Cascades, as well as Provincial and Federal partners; why was the PAC and, nearby business owners with a substantial financial stake in the outcomes, not included?
  • Out of respect for the Robinson-Superior Treaty, what is the involvement of the PAC with the Fort William First Nation?
  • Is there the possibility that the Public Advisory Committee or one of the subcommittee’s could assist by facilitating discussions amongst key stakeholders?
  • Are the PAC Terms of Reference available on the InfoSuperior website (
  • Is it worthwhile to form a smaller group, or subcommittee, to act on some of these suggestions?
  • Can we ask that a Transport Canada representative attend a future PAC meeting?

Jurisdictional Challenges

  • Is the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) responsible if there is contaminated groundwater leaking into the harbour? (i.e., is this the Province’s responsibility?)
  • How did the issue of water contamination within the harbour become a separate issue from the land-based contamination?
  • A coordinated effort to identify a lead would be beneficial
  • Will the funding be the same scheme as other Great Lakes cleanup projects (i.e. one-third Province, one-third Federal, and one-third industry)

Ongoing Work

  • Are the recommendations of this Public Advisory Committee to be considered once a project lead has been identified?
  • If filling the knowledge gaps will not impact the outcome at all, then is it worth working on filling in these gaps?
  • Do we know what studies on mercury, or the North Harbour, are currently being undertaken or anticipated?
  • Are there any potential research opportunities for the North Harbour area such as phytoremediation options or alternative solutions?

Earthcare representative Rena Viehbeck also noted that the Earthcare Advisory Board would be bringing a resolution to Thunder Bay City Council seeking formal resolution for action on North Harbour.

Fish and Wildlife Habitat Impairment (presentation)

Nathan Wilson (Lakehead University) provided an overview of the work he intends to do over the summer to develop a habitat strategy for the Thunder Bay Area of Concern. This could include developing a list and rationale for various potential habitat projects as well as mapping these locations.



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