At an April 27th event in Red Rock, Ontario on Lake Superior’s Nipigon Bay, Patti Hajdu, federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour and Michael Gravelle, Ontario Minister of Northern Development and Mines joined Gary Nelson, Mayor of the Town of Red Rock, to announce almost $26 million in federal-provincial funding for a new wastewater pollution control plant for Red Rock. The town has just less that 1000 residents and the treatment plant currently used by the town is some 50 years old.
A news release from Patti Hajdu states that the Government of Canada is contributing up to $8.57 million for the project while the Government of Ontario will contribute 17. 14 million.
In 2009, the towns of both Nipigon and Red Rock were promised $9 million each to build new wastewater treatment plants. Nipigon constructed their plant utilizing these funds but Red Rock did not proceed with construction.
Cleaning up, again and again and again…simply isn’t a sustainable practice. Somebody had to say “enough is enough”, and it looks like the person in charge at Environment and Climate Change Canada did just that.
Catherine Mckenna, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, announced on Earth Day (April 22, 2018) that the federal government has launched a new website for the public to share views and ideas regarding how the government could deal with marine plastics.
“Marine litter is a global problem: it’s also found on all of Canada’s coasts and in freshwater areas, including the Great Lakes.” -Environment and Climate Change Canada
Plastics are polymers, chain-like molecules composed of carbon, hydrogen and sometimes other elements, which makes them malleable and easily molded. The tremendously versatile applications of plastics have led to an exponential growth in the plastic industry since they were first developed synthetically in the 1950’s. Because plastics are not easily recycled and often used for single-use applications like straws, food packaging and plastic cups, they have become huge contributors to landfills and marine waste.
“Each year, globally, about 8 million tonnes of plastic waste enter the oceans. This is like dumping the content of one garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute.” – Environment and Climate Change Canada.
Recommending that individuals look at reducing their personal use of single-use plastics, the government website states that federal action is also required.
The Government of Canada is reaching out to Canadians to hear their views and suggestions toward reaching zero plastic waste in Canada. If you would like to contribute, contact Environment and Climate Change Canda via the new PlaceSpeak discussion board, through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send mail to:
Environment and Climate Change Canada
351 St. Joseph Blvd., Place Vincent Massey, 9-064
Gatineau QC K1A 0H3
Related October 1, 2017 Infosuperior article:
Students from Millstone Township in New Jersey have done amazing work researching Invasive Phragmites and presenting their findings and action plans at Community Problem Solving Competitions. Now they have developed tool kits for teachers so that more students can get involved.
Phragmites Australis, also known as the European Common Reed, is an invasive species from Eurasia. Invasive Phragmites grow in extremely dense stands, outcompeting other native plant species and reducing open water surface area in wetlands. They also release toxins from their roots that can kill off native plant species. This reduces biodiversity and leads to a loss of habitat for wildlife. They can grow up to 22ft tall and have a much more dense seedhead than their native counterpart.
The Phearless Phragmites Phighters Millstone Township Elementary School Community Problem Solving Team has developed a digital strategy to get New Jersey students involved in tackling the Phragmite Invasion. They have developed an online teachers kit—PHRAGKIT4TEACHERS—to create awareness and give students the tools to take action. The kit will help students to differentiate between the invasive Phragmites Australis and its native counterpart. It will also encourage students to develop creative solutions and get local government involved. You can contact the Phearless Phragmites Phighters at email@example.com and follow them on Twitter @PHRAGPHIGHTERS.
The Phragmites are not only an issue in New Jersey. This invasive plant species has been spreading north of the border as well, in Southern Ontario and all three of the Prairie Provinces. In 2005 the “Phrag” was named Canada’s worst invasive plant by Agriculture and Agrifood Canada. For more information about Phragmites Australis in Ontario you can visit Ontario’s Invasive Species Awareness Program and the Ontario Phragmites Working Group website.
Lake Superior lies within the Great Canadian Shield, a massive inactive geologic feature mainly composed of metamorphic rock. Geologically speaking, the Shield has only been a calm region as of recently and its scars reveal that this area was home to a turbulent past. For example, geologists believe that the location where Lake Superior is situated was once a developing continental rift, where the North American Continent had begun to split creating the beginnings of a rift valley. The rift failed leaving a low point that was further eroded by glaciers and filled with water when the glaciers retreated.
A three-stop GeoTour laid out by the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) will take you through some of this regions most dynamic events via snapshots that were left in the earth’s crust in the Lakehead Region (Thunder Bay and surrounding area).
GeoTour Sneak Peek
Have you ever wondered why our “mountains” are flat? The first stop on the Tour is Mount Mckay, where you will learn why these sudden cliffs jut out against an otherwise gentle terrain.
The second stop takes you to the scenic “Niagara of the North”, Kakabeka Falls. At this location you can see some of the oldest fossils in the world, although they may not look like fossils to you, they are the remnants of cyanobacteria mounds that formed on the sea floor over a billion years ago.
Stop number three reveals blast debris at Hillcrest Park in Thunder Bay. Debris was left by the impact of a giant meteor 1.85 Billion years ago into the area where Sudbury is now located.
Check out some other GeoTours around Ontario at GeoTours Northern Ontario.
Several organizations interested in cleanup of a contaminated area of Thunder Bay Harbour met on April 18th at Lakehead University. It was the first such meeting involving Transport Canada, the owner of the harbour bottom in this federal port. Harbour administration is carried out by the Thunder Bay Port Authority.
Covering an Area 52 Football Fields in Size
A pulpy mass of some 400,00 cubic meters in volume sits on the harbour bottom, off the mouth of the Current River and adjacent to a paper mill, which operated in the Current River area of Thunder Bay until several years ago. It covers approximately 26 hectares of the harbour, roughly equal to the size of 52 high school football fields, and is up to several meters thick. The material is contaminated with mercury and estimates for cleanup have ranged from 40 million to over 100 million dollars.
Federal Minister Gets Involved
For some time, the Public Advisory Committee to the Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan has requested that Transport Canada become involved in the cleanup process. This request is based on the premise that the land owner must play a role in cleanup. After being approached by Public Advisory Committee representatives, Patti Hajdu—Thunder Bay-Superior North MP and Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour—assisted in bringing Transport Canada to the table.
The tone of the meeting was very cooperative. In addition to representatives of the Public Advisory Committee and Lakehead University, senior personnel from the following organizations attended:
- Transport Canada
- Environment and Climate Change Canada
- Thunder Bay Port Authority
Several outcomes resulted from the meeting. Foremost, it was decided that a second meeting would be held in June to begin the process of creating a cleanup strategy. All organizations present at the April 18th meeting said that they would attend in June.
Additional outcomes and considerations arising from the April 18th meeting include the following:
- Transport Canada stated that they intend to be an ongoing partner and are looking forward to collaborative solutions
- the federal Port of Thunder Bay is not eligible for cleanup project funding through the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan; furthermore, this program is being phased out within two years
- to the extent possible, the “polluter pays” principle should be utilized. The former mill has gone through numerous owners and if any are still solvent, they should be participating in cleanup
- Environment and Climate Change Canada stated that the former mill site and adjacent harbour contamination should be considered as one “package” and that synergy between the two aspects may result in lower cost cleanup
- the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change said that all involved need to be cognizant of environmental orders on the former mill site. They said these orders need to be recognized and respected going forward, even as solutions are being sought
- public access to harbour shoreline is at a premium. If tax dollars are to be spent on cleanup, then eventual public access to this area of the harbour should be an integral cleanup component
- the City of Thunder Bay may be able to assist and should be invited to participate in ongoing discussions aimed at cleanup
- harbour front land owners in the Current River area should be included in discussions.
Infosuperior will provide further information about North Harbour cleanup as steps are taken.
How was cleanup carried out in Hamilton Harbour, a situation involving the steel industry and one of the largest cleanups on the Great Lakes?
An explosion at Wisconsin’s only oil refinery resulted in the evacuation of communities within a 3-mile radius and 10 mile corridor South of the blast location. The explosion ignited the contents of one of the refinery tanks, which created a massive amount of toxic smoke. Luckily for Lake Superior, northerly winds spread the smoke south of the refinery away from the lake.
The plume was large enough, and thick enough with particulate matter, to be captured on radar by National Weather Service Duluth:
2:15PM Radar image of smoke plume – now reaching to southern edge of Douglas county. This is tracking smoke aloft. Smoke plume may drift a bit to the west this evening. pic.twitter.com/PCFrzg4Es3
— NWS Duluth (@NWSduluth) April 26, 2018
The tank contained either crude oil or asphalt. When such oil products undergo combustion, they release gaseous chemicals and carcinogenic particulate matter. Three schools and one hospital were evacuated because of the noxious smoke.
The explosion occurred around 10am Thursday, April 26. The fire was extinguished by 11:20am but later reignited before being completely extinguished by late Thursday. The evacuation order was lifted just before 6am Friday, April 27. 11 people were injured, one with serious blast injuries.
More Images Courtesy of Michael Osborn and Sheila Lamb
“The Climate Atlas of Canada combines climate science, mapping and storytelling to bring the global issue of climate change closer to home for Canadians. It is designed to inspire local, regional, and national action that will let us move from risk to resilience.”
That’s the way the Climate Atlas of Canada is explained at www.climateatlas.ca. This new site has recently been featured by major Canadian newspapers and media outlets (links below). Here’s why.
Several elements combine to make this site an extremely intriguing way to view climate change:
- interactive map format
- climate data on demand
- projections of future climate conditions,
- ability for site visitors to scale change to either “less” or “more.”
- stories from real people in video format.
The atlas, developed by the Prairie Climate Centre at the University of Winnipeg, provides data and information about climate change across Canada. It also compares data from 1976 to 2005 with projections for 2051 to 2080.
Even considering all of the resources and applications accessible across the internet, the climate change atlas is unique. In one package, everyone from a lay person to an expert can access credible, well documented information about climate through this absorbing site.
Thunder Bay and Climate Change Video: Supporting mitigation to protect Lake Superior
The “About” section of the site sums up the Climate Atlas of Canada as:
” . . . an interactive tool for citizens, researchers, businesses, and community and political leaders to learn about climate change in Canada. . . . The Atlas explains what climate change is, how it affects Canada and what these changes mean in our communities.” – climateatlas.ca
The site provides a menu sub-divided into the following topics:
In short climateatlas.ca helps us understand climate change. Why not try it out?
- January 16th, 2018 Infosuperior podcast with climateatlas.ca developer and team leader Dr. Ian Mauro
- April 4th, 2018 Globe and Mail Newspaper article
- April 4th, 2018 Vice News article on “Motherboard.”
- April 5, 2018 CBC Radio Interview on “As it Happens”
The Climate Atlas was developed with financial support from the University of Winnipeg, Great West Life Assurance, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Province of Manitoba and Environment and Climate Change Canada.
Invaders of Lake Superior
You may have heard about the risks when consuming fish and seafood due to mercury concentrations in their tissues, but one fish that you may not have considered is the invasive sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus). Present in the great lakes since the 1940s, sea lamprey are parasitic jaw-less fish that have a single reproductive phase before death. Larvae hatch from the lamprey eggs and burr
ow into the bottom sediment of their spawning stream where they filter feed for 3-7 years before returning to the lake or sea in a parasitic phase lasting 1-2 years. Once they have reached sexual maturity, the lamprey return to streams and rivers to spawn and their life cycle is complete.
A Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Comission (GLIFWC) administrative report by environmental biologist Sara Moses provides new detailed information about mercury in Lamprey through their life stages and a first estimate of how much mercury they are capable of moving between Lake Superior and the streams around it.
The Results are Shocking
The study, conducted by the GLIFWC with the University of Wisconsin, measured changes in mercury concentrations throughout the three life stages–eggs, larvae and adults–of lamprey sampled from tributaries leading to Lake Superior in Michigan and Wisconsin. The mercury levels were high at every life stage.
For example, adult lamprey had ten times the mercury levels found in trout, the lamprey’s preferred food source. Mercury concentrations may be so high in adult lamprey because they are parasitic, attaching to a host and feeding off their blood and bodily fluids for 1-2 years before spawning. They prefer large trout which are more likely to have higher mercury levels and which have been shown to carry more mercury in their blood than in other tissues.
Adult lamprey had the highest mean mercury levels of 3.01μg/g, followed by eggs at 0.942μg/g, and larvae with the lowest mean of 0.455μg/g. For context, Canadian and US guidelines recommend that fish exceeding 0.5μg/g and 0.3μg/g, respectively, are not suitable for human consumption.
What this means for the Great Lakes ecosystem
Although lamprey may be considered a delicacy elsewhere, consumption of these creatures is rare in the Lake Superior area. The greater risk is to wildlife who feed on the lamprey and their larvae and eggs. The mercury concentrations measured by this study in all eggs and adult lamprey as well as in most larval lamprey exceeded the upper threshold for mercury concentration criteria for fish-eating wildlife set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
After spawning, adult lamprey die at the spawning location and mercury is released from their bodies, mainly as methylmercury. As a result, they contribute significantly to the transportation of mercury between the lake and surrounding rivers in the Superior Basin. Sara Moses suggests that based on 2015 spawning lamprey population estimates of ~80,000 and the mean lamprey mass and mercury concentrations determined in the GLIFWC study, the spawning migration of adult lamprey transports 49.1g of like-derived mercury to the spawning streams annually.
Previous Articles about Mercury:
It’s A Big Lake
Some people around Lake Superior might assume that it is wide open everywhere, especially when viewing footage taken recently in the Duluth area and on the south side of the lake. In other areas however, especially some of the larger protected bays, the lake remains frozen solid, and now, with recent snow having swept the region, snow covered.
Infosuperior recently received the following note, along with the linked photos, from a couple of Nipigon residents, one of whom happens to be the chair of the Public Advisory Committee to the Nipigon Bay Remedial Action Plan and has been active in Lake Superior environmental efforts for many years. Thank you Dave Crawford and Catherine Meharg. The note documents a ski outing which took place within the last week but also, in a way, documents the huge size of the lake. While people in Duluth are being told not to use the Lakewalk due to large waves sweeping the shoreline, people in more northern areas are out skiing over a couple of feet of Lake Superior ice. Anyway, as you’ll see from the following note, a beautiful way to spend a day and explore Lake Superior at this time of year.
Skiing Nipigon Bay
“We awoke early Sunday morning and the weather was looking good. A South Wind was blowing and the ice still holding tight for a good ski day on Nipigon Bay. At 08:00 a.m. we headed out to a bush road leading to Lake Superior then strapped on our skis. A sketchy ski down the bush road led us to Superior.
First stop was Ruby Island for a cinnamon bun and coffee to warm up. Then a trek to the Speck Islands. Head winds slowed us down, but also warmed us up as we worked hard to keep our balance. We worked our way around the islands looking for a wind break. No such luck. A quick turnaround and back to Ruby Island and a sheltered spot for lunch. The hard work on the upwind slog paid off. A tailwind pushed us all the way back to Ruby! We both felt like we were holding a parachute. We were literally flying over the snow-covered ice without effort.
The Ice quinsies are optical illusions to both the eyes and brain. How incredibly beautiful they were. We both played at taking photos and exploring the sculptures the heavens created. Hunger then set in as we thought about the warm coffee, tea and sandwiches in our pack. Another spot on the island caught our eye. Sunny, sheltered and a perfect log for a comfy seat. We contemplated life as our thoughts of peace and serenity calmed the soul. The wind carried us back to the mainland, then we unstrapped the skis and headed home.
A perfect, rewarding day.”
A Few More Photos
Taking excellent photos is no accident for Dave and Catherine. They’re both excellent photographers.
See more of Dave’s photos here.
Are you looking for something to read?
Each month the New York Times and PBS NewsHour run a book club focusing on a book “that helps us make sense of the world we’re living in — fiction, history, memoir and more“.
For April that book is The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan. Learn more about these intriguing bodies of water and the challenges they face and get into some great discussions. The book club discussion is located on the Facebook Group, Now Read This, where you can also submit questions to the author.
Book Club Posts about The Death and Life of the Great Lakes: