Month: April 2018

Late Breaking: Red Rock Receives Wastewater Treatment Plant Funding

Map Showing Red Roc, Ontario
The Town of Red Rock is located on the shore of Lake Superior’s Nipigon Bay some 115 km./71 mi. east of Thunder Bay, Ontario.

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.

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Environment and Climate Change Canada Focuses in on Marine Plastics

Nipigon Bay Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup
Participants in a September 16, 2017 Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup organized by Parks Canada on Lake Superior’s Nipigon Bay. According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, since 1994, volunteers participating in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup have collected 1.2 million kg of waste. Photo: J. Bailey/Infosuperior.com

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

 

How to deal with plastic?
Ideas about how to deal with plastic waste are coming in through Environment and Climate Change Canada’s new website. Click the image above to proceed to the new website.

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.

Only an estimated 11% of plastics in Canada make it to the recycling plant. Image: Public Domain.

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 ec.plastiques-plastics.ec@canada.ca, or send mail to:

Plastics Consultation
Environment and Climate Change Canada
351 St. Joseph Blvd., Place Vincent Massey, 9-064
Gatineau QC  K1A 0H3

Related October 1, 2017 Infosuperior article:

Nipigon Bay Beach Cleanup Nets Almost 200,000 “Nurdles”

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Elementary School “Phearless Phragmites Phighters” Action Plan

 

Phearless Phragmites Phighters
A screen capture from the “PhraKit4Teachers website. The “Phearless Phragmites Phighters” have created their own program to deal with this invasive plant. Visit their website.

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.

Phragmites Australis Seed Head.

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 pppcmps@gmail.com and follow them on Twitter @PHRAGPHIGHTERS.

They may look delicate, but this invasive species is hard to get rid of and poisonous to native plant species.

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.

Environmental Science and Phramites

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Take A Tour: Geology of the Lakehead Region

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.

Location of the Ancient Rift Valley. Image from the MNDM GeoTour PDF.

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 Stops. Image from the MNDM GeoTour PDF.

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.

Mount Mckay By Vidioman – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5316732

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.

Kakabeka Falls By Roughhabitz – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50699615

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.

Impact Layer at Hillcrest Park.Image from the MNDM GeoTour PDF.

Check out some other GeoTours around Ontario at GeoTours Northern Ontario.

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North Harbour Cleanup Efforts Renewed

Contaminated pulpy material from Thunder Bay Harbour.
A sample of the pulpy material contaminated with mercury in Thunder Bay Harbour. Several organizations met on April 18th to renew efforts aimed at cleanup.

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:

Federal Representatives:

Provincial Representatives:

Other Representatives:

  • Thunder Bay Port Authority

Outcomes

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.

Related:

How was cleanup carried out in Hamilton Harbour, a situation involving the steel industry and one of the largest cleanups on the Great Lakes?

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Explosions, Fire Rock Superior Wisconsin

The St. Louis River Estuary
A view over the St. Louis River estuary between Superior, Wisc. and Duluth, Minn. with the fire at the Husky refinery in the distance. In 1987, the estuary was designated as one of 43 Great Lakes environmental “Areas of Concern.” Cleanup is ongoing and substantial progress has been made. Image curtesy of Michael Osborn, owner of Divine Chaos Clique Photography.
Smoke billowed up from a Husky-owned oil refinery in Wisconsin on Thursday April, 26. Image curtesy of Michael Osborn, owner of Divine Chaos Clique Photography.

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.

 

Smoke continued to rise and spread from the refinery for several hours Thursday, as it was blown south by northerly winds. Image courtesy of Michael Osborn, owner of Divine Chaos Clique Photography.

 

The plume was large enough, and thick enough with particulate matter, to be captured on radar by National Weather Service Duluth:

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.

Road blocks were set up to keep people away from the caustic fumes. Image courtesy of Michael Osborn, owner of Divine Chaos Clique Photography.

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.

Related: Chemical Raises Concern in Wake of Superior Refinery Explosion, Fire

More Images Courtesy of Michael Osborn and Sheila Lamb

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Interactive Canadian Climate Change Atlas

Climate Atlas
The interactive Climate Atlas provides climate data and information about climate change.

Hover over the “Tools” tab on the Infosuperior website menu and you’ll find that an intriguing new tool has been added.

“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:

Number of plus 30 degree centigrade days.
In addition to providing historical climate data, interactive features allow users to “dial up” climate change, or conversely, to “dial it down.”

In short climateatlas.ca helps us understand climate change. Why not try it out?

Related:

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.

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Shocking Mercury Levels in Lake Superior Sea Lamprey

By H. L. Todd – Goode, George Brown (1884) Fisheries and Fishery Industries of the United States: Section I, Natural History of Useful Aquatic Animals, Plates, Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, Public Domain.

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.

Sea Lamprey Feeding on Lake Trout. Public Domain.

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.

lamprey (Petromyzon marinus). Credit: T. Lawrence, Great Lakes Fishery Commission. By NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory – 3103, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46911105

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:

The Dragonfly Mercury Project

Canada Ratifies Minimata Convention on Mercury

Scientists Puzzled by Rise in Mercury in Great Lakes Fish

 

 

 

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Skiing Nipigon Bay

Ice Caves and Bridges
Ice sculptures on Nipigon Bay. This is the first of a few photos taken on a cell phone by Dave Crawford and Catherine Meharg on a recent Nipigon Bay ski tour.

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.

Nipigon Bay
Nipigon Bay on Lake Superior, just east of Nipigon, Ontario.

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.

 

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Great Lakes Featured in PBS NewsHour-New York Times Book Club Pick: “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes”

Death and Life of the Great Lakes
The April New York Times Book Club Discussion will focus on Pulitzer Prize finalist “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes,” by Dan Egan.

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:

Discussion questions

New York Times book review

An annotated page Dan Egan

An interview about the writing process with Dan Egan

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