Month: February 2020

Environmental Law and Lake Superior – ONLINE PRESENTATION

This event takes place at 12 noon on March 25th ONLINE. The event is open to the public and free of charge. Everyone is welcome to attend.

PRESENTATION MOVED ONLINE: Click the link below to join in!
https://zoom.us/j/289072430

How can the law be used to protect the environment in Northern Ontario and across Canada? On March 25th, join students from Lakehead University’s Bora Laskin Faculty of Law in Thunder Bay, Ontario as they explore two legal topics impacting Northern communities.

Adam de Luca and Petri Bailey are Lakehead University Law students volunteering with the Canadian Environmental Law Association and Environment North. The opportunity is in partnership with Pro Bono Students Canada, a national organization with the aim of furthering access to justice across the country. Adam will discuss the legal principles surrounding the storage of nuclear fuel bundles in Northern Ontario. Petri will share some insights regarding the impact of a Canadian Pacific derailment that spilled large quantities of plastic pellets or “nurdles” into Lake Superior.

Plastic beads, or “nurdles,” the raw material for all things plastic, on a beach at Healey Island, Rossport Archipalego, Ontario. Photo: Petri Bailey

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Reduced Recreation Use for Boulevard Lake this Summer

The dam at Boulevard Lake, Thunder Bay.

Boulevard Lake is a hub for activity in Thunder Bay. People cycle, swim, run, walk their dogs, roller ski, etc. But this year there is going to be reduced recreational activity at Boulevard Lake. The dam at Boulevard Lake is going to be under construction for two years commencing in 2020. The concrete on the dam is deteriorating and needs to be replaced to safely accommodate floodwaters. The construction will affect the use of the area. Water levels in the lake will be lower and reduce access for kayakers, stand up paddle boarders, and other boaters. The beach at Boulevard will also be closed during this time and swimming will not be allowed. The bridge over the dam will also be closed and users such as cyclists, runners, roller skiers, walkers, etc. will not be able to complete a pass of boulevard lake unless they venture down to Cumberland street.

The construction project is going to address the walkway and make some improvements. There are plans to widen the path to the standard trail width as well as install path lighting and aesthetic lighting to the dam.

Only the dam and the lake itself will have restricted use. The path can still be used. Users can do half loops, or a complete the full loop by going on Cumberland Street. The grass areas are still available for picnics and recreational use. The reduced activity this year, will allow for better recreation for years to come.

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TBFN Black Bay Conservation Area

Winter Shoreline at Black Bay

Conservation is important to protecting wildlife and promoting biodiversity. The Thunder Bay Field Naturalists are a local organization that conserves ecosystems around the Thunder Bay area along Lake Superior.

An interview with Susan Bryan from Thunder Bay Field Naturalists was conducted to find out more about the club and the Black Bay Purchase along Lake Superior.

1. What is Thunder Bay Field Naturalists?

TBFN is an all-volunteer registered charitable organization in Northwestern Ontario with approximately 250 members.

The purposes of the club are the study of natural history, wise use of natural resources, preservation of natural areas, and public education. In support of these goals, our group runs a variety of programs, ranging from hikes to indoor educational sessions. TBFN established its Nature Reserves program in 1990, in response to concerns about the many land use demands on the forests and wetlands of Northwestern Ontario. Since that time these demands have increased, making protection of ecologically significant areas all the more critical. Currently, TBFN protects over 6000 acres (2500 hectares) of land in eighteen separate reserves, with an endowment fund to ensure protection in perpetuity. In addition to protection, the reserves are used to educate the public about natural history and habitat protection, and to offer opportunities for nature appreciation.

2. Where is the property located?

The property is located on the west shore of Black Bay, just north of the development at Superior Shores Estates.  It abuts the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority property at Granite Point Conservation Area which in turn abuts TBFN`s other property at Granite Point (see attached regional locator map and detailed map of conservation context of this property). 

3. How big is the property?

It is 566 acres (230 hectares).

4. Why is the property important?

This new nature reserve connects to several existing conservation properties in the area. Immediately to the east is the Granite Point Conservation Area owned by Lakehead Region Conservation Authority.  East again of the LRCA property is TBFN’s own Granite Point Nature Reserve, a 400 acre parcel that TBFN purchased four years ago.  As seen on the attached map, these three adjoining properties will protect a long continuous stretch of natural shoreline and interior wetland and forest.  The adjacent marshy waters of Black Bay are also protected, part of the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area.

The large shallow bay along the shore here supports emergent reeds and cattails important to nesting and migrating waterfowl, herons, gulls, pelicans and raptors.  The rich shallows provide spawning areas for fish.  Lake Sturgeon use the waters of Black Bay year round and spawn in the rivers entering at the north end of the bay. 

The cedar and black spruce swamp in the interior is home to a number of orchids.  Perhaps of most interest to members are two documented bat hibernacula / nurseries.  Protecting these two sites from intrusion may help in the bats’ recovery from the fungal infestation causing “White-nose Syndrome”. 

5. Are there any plans for the property?

This summer the naturalists plan to document natural history values of the property in more detail.  Inventories of birds, plants, mammals and insects on the property will be started.  The Naturalists are planning a walk (open to TBFN members and the public) to explore the cedar swamps and marshy shoreline.  The last survey of bats was completed by MNR in 2008 and an update is now required on the status of the bats.  We have engaged the services of a Bat Specialist to conduct field surveys of the bats. 

6. Do you intend to have any public use?

All TBFN Nature Reserves are open to the public.  We encourage visits to take photos, bird watch, enjoy nature.  We ask that visitors do not disturb the wildlife, pick or damage vegetation, or leave trash.  Habitat protection, not recreation, is our main purpose in acquiring this land.   For this reason we do not develop or maintain any trails or facilities such as parking lots.   Motorized vehicles and hunting are not permitted.  There is no signage or maps to guide people on their explorations.  This is a wilderness area and those visiting do so at their own risk – there are bears and bugs and bogs. 

7. What are the dominant plant and tree species?

The shallow bay on Lake Superior has a marshy shoreline with reeds, cattails and other aquatic plants rooted in the silty lake bottom.  Such shoreline marshes are uncommon on Lake Superior and therefore of great value to wildlife.  Moving back from the shoreline you enter a rich cedar and black spruce swamp with moss hummocks, orchids, and watery pools. Inland the ground becomes higher gradually rising to areas of mature upland forest and even some rocky domes.  Forested areas adjacent to old logging roads have been cut in the past and now are regenerating largely with Trembling Aspen and White Birch. 

8. How can people learn more?

More information, including information about future outings planned by TBFN, will be posted on our web site www.tbfn.net


9. Are there options for people to get involved?

Yes!  We welcome the public to join up as a member of TBFN and become one of our volunteers, helping with monitoring and stewardship of this property and others that we care for.  Volunteers with an interest in the outdoors and nature are the backbone of our organization (we have no paid employees). 

We also welcome reports of casual observations and photos of interesting plants, animals or birds that visitors going to the property might see.  You don`t have to be a member to send us a picture of something interesting.  These photos or reports can be sent to our web site (click `Contact`) or shared through the TBFN Facebook page.  We appreciate getting such reports and photos. 

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Thunder Bay’s Lead Control Program: Unforeseen Consequences

Thunder Bay, like many Canadian cities, has water pipes made out of lead which has resulted in contaminated drinking water. In Thunder Bay, lead was often used in pipes up until 1952. The older homes in Thunder Bay are more likely to have pipes made of lead supplying their water. In Canada, lead pipes were banned in 1975, but the use of lead solder only stopped in 1986.

The contaminated water arises from the pipes. Thankfully, the water being pumped from the lake has little to no lead. Some of the pipes delivering water on private property and city property are still made of lead. To address the issue of lead in the drinking water, the city ran a pilot program in 2016 that added sodium hydroxide to water to reduce the lead corrosion in the pipes. In 2018, sodium hydroxide was added to all drinking water in Thunder Bay. As a result, the lead levels dropped. But in the past few months, the number of pinhole leaks has increased. Pinhole leaks used to not be an issue for the city, but the increased number of reports led the city to consider changing their corrosion control plan.

The pinhole leaks have come from houses with copper pipes. The copper pipes are thought to be corroded by the sodium hydroxide which creates weakness and pinhole leaks form.

The city will be making changes to the drinking water by removing the sodium hydroxide. As a result, lead levels are likely to increase for residents with lead pipes either on their property or from a city line. The pH levels in the city are also expected to change. To address the issue, the city will contact the list of approximately 8,700 houses who this will affect through lead service pipe connections. As a short-term fix, the city will hand out water filters to the households affected.

The water filters are a temporary solution. The problem will only be solved once all the lead pipes are removed and replaced. There are plans to replace the service pipes over future years. Although, customers are responsible for replacing the pipes that run from the property line into their property. The city plans to replace 150 lead pipes that run from the street to the property line each year. The pipes are a big concern, but the solder used in pipes can also cause lead leaks and should also be addressed.

In the meantime, there are a few things that can be done to reduce lead exposure. One way is to run cold water for 3-5mins before using any of the water. Once the water is very cold, you can fill up pitchers, kettles, or pots to use for drinking and cooking. Make sure to always use cold water since there is likely to be less lead in the water. You can also use the lead water filter provided by the city (or one purchased) to filter water before drinking and cooking. If you’re concerned about other water uses, the city notes that water for bathing and laundry does not need to be filtered. If your water hasn’t been used in a few hours, make sure to flush your pipes by running water. One other thins residents should do is clean out their faucet aerators since they can also collect lead.

The city has contacted the residents who have lead pipes connecting to their house, but if you are concerned about high lead levels in your water the city offers free testing. You can also do a preliminary test at home by looking at your pipes. If your pipes have a dull grey colour and if scratched leaves a shiny mark, the pipes could potentially be made from lead.

The shiny surface of a lead pipe after being scratched.

The testing uses the three-sample approach. To test for lead levels, the water in your pipes should remain stagnant for up to six hours. Then the tap is turned on and the first sample is taking immediately. The second sample is taken 45s later and the third sample is taken 2 mins after. The different times can help determine where the source of lead is coming from if there is one.

Other cities across Canada have also gone through similar experiences. Toronto used to have one of the highest lead concentrations in the country. The city decided to add orthophosphate to protect the pipes from lead corrosion. The phosphate coats the pipes and prevents high rates of lead erosion. Since implanting the corrosion control, only 2% of the pipes sample exceed unsuitable levels of lead of 5 parts per billion. Other cities across Canada such as Windsor, Hamilton, and Quebec City have also added phosphates to their drinking water to address lead corrosion.

Any level of lead is problematic, but the higher concentrations pose greater consequences. The groups most vulnerable to high lead levels are children under 6, pregnant women, and women planning to get pregnant. These groups should take special concern with their drinking water.

There is currently no legislation in place for landlords to fix lead pipes. If you are a tenant of a household or building with lead pipes, have a conversation with your landlord addressing your concern to hopefully find a solution.

For more information visit:

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Consequences of Thin Ice

Photo By Ed Lee

This year has had reduced ice levels on Lake Superior. Ice activity has been limited due to the presence and thickness of the ice. The bays of Lake Superior have had ice formations such as the Harbour in Thunder Bay, but the majority of the lake lacks the substantial ice coverage.

Thin ice in addition to being risky for traveling on also has environmental impacts, for example, reduced ice cover results in greater wave action which can enhance coastal erosion along shorelines, beaches, and bluffs. The lower ice coverage can also result in increased warming during the summer months. Reduced ice cover can also increase extreme events such as lake effect snow due to the wind blowing over the open water. Ice protects ecosystems and when ice levels are low ecosystems are more vulnerable. Nutrient loads are higher when ice cover is low which can promote algal blooms. There are good algal blooms that feed fish and provide to the ecosystem, however, these only occur when ice cover is high. Low ice levels reduce good algal blooms and promote the bad ones. The Great Lakes are resilient but protecting our waters and our winters are important to ecosystem functioning and to Canada’s identity.

Go out and enjoy the winter, but you should always use caution when partaking in ice recreation. Special attention must be made during low ice years such as this one.

Not all ice is the same. The colour of ice can generally indicate the strength of the ice. Blue ice is the strongest. White opaque or snow ice is only half as strong as blue ice. Grey ice is unsafe because it indicates the presence of water.

The thickness of the ice depends on the activity for the ice. If you are planning to skate alone the ice needs to be 15cm thick. If you are planning on skating in a group or play a game the thickness should increase to 20cm. When traveling by snowmobile the ice thickness should be at least 25cm. These suggestions apply for blue ice and should be doubled for white-opaque ice.

If you plan on going out on the ice, make sure you:

  • Check the ice conditions before heading out
  • Let others know where you are going and when you plan to return
  • Make sure to wear appropriate clothing (warm and brightly coloured) and carry proper gear (rope, ice picks, and a flotation device)
  • Make sure to go out with other people
  • Be aware of your surroundings as ice conditions can change
  • Get warm and dry as soon as possible

Hopefully, the conditions are safe, and your activities go as planned, but in case you fall in, make sure to practice the following:

  • Call for help
  • Take deep breaths and remain calm
  • Orient yourself towards the shore since ice is thicker nearshore
  • Reach on to broken ice while kicking your legs to get yourself horizontal
  • Once you are back on the ice, roll to evenly displace your weight in the direction of the shore or away from the open water

If you are with someone who falls in the water practice the following:

  • Call for help
  • Try to rescue them from shore using a long branch or pole
  • If you are on the ice, wear a PDF and carry your rescue tool (pole, branch, rope)
  • Get low to the surface and lay down and slowly crawl towards the break
  • Stay low while you throw the rescue device and get the person to kick their legs to help get themselves up
  • Get the person safe and dry onshore

The winter offers many opportunities but remember, to be safe and always have a plan to expect the unexpected.

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Great Lakes Cruise

Have you ever dreamt of touring the Great Lakes by cruise ship? Well, Viking Cruise Lines has launched a set of cruises for 2022 on the five great lakes (Lake Michigan, Huron, Superior, Erie, and Ontario)

Related image

There are four packages that they are currently offering:

  • Great Lakes Explorer
    • Milwaukee to Thunder Bay
  • Undiscovered Great Lakes
    • Thunder Bay to Milwaukee
  • Niagara & the Great Lakes
    • Toronto to Milwaukee
  • Canadian Discovery
    • New York City to Toronto
A close up of a map

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The cruise offers numerous opportunities to learn about the Great Lake’s history as well as its present functioning and ecosystems. This is an opportunity to see the lakes through a new lens. The on-board classroom provides a hands-on learning experience. Don’t worry if the $8,000+ price tag isn’t in the cards because the cruise line offers a reading list as well as a filmography to provide learning about the Great Lakes from the comfort of your couch.

For more information visit https://www.vikingcruisescanada.com/expeditions/cruise-destinations/great-lakes-canada/index.html

For the reading list: https://www.vikingcruisescanada.com/expeditions/cruise-destinations/great-lakes-canada/undiscovered-great-lakes/reading-list.html

Filmography: https://www.vikingcruisescanada.com/expeditions/my-trip/my-viking-journey/filmography-list.html#panel-great-lakes-explorer

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Thunder Bay Climate Crisis

Photo of Lake Superior by Wyeth McCormick.

In 2019 Greta Thunberg hit the world by storm. People around the globe were introduced to the young Swedish climate activist who is standing up for her future. Her message and movement spread rapidly, and kids around the globe are skipping school to stand up for their future. Her message is anything, but subtle. She meets with leaders around the world to discuss the seriousness that climate change has on the future that will greatly impact her and others in her demographic. One of her tenets is for communities, countries, or anyone who is willing to take the situation seriously to declare a climate emergency and impose climate action. Greta Thunberg was declared TIMES’ person of the year.

On Jan 13 the city of Thunder Bay officially declared a climate emergency, but no particular action was determined. Residents of Thunder Bay and the surrounding area are starting to feel the effects of climate change.

Summer Stevenson, the sustainability coordinator from EarthCare dropped by the Remedial Action Plan Office to answer some questions about the climate emergency. Below is a summarized Interview:

What is a climate emergency?

In the case of Thunder Bay, it is a symbolic message that allows citizens to know that council takes things relating to the environment seriously. It will be taken into account when new policies or developments go forward. A climate emergency reminds council that the climate is something that they prioritized and allows climate to be a priority when considering and making decisions

Why did you declare a climate emergency?

The City of Thunder Bay’s Climate Adaptation Strategy was completed in 2015. This is the guiding document for climate mitigation and adaptation within the city. The EarthCare climate adaptation working group, who works to make sure that the strategy is being carried out, motioned to declare the climate emergency. The climate adaptation working group will be meeting in February to discuss the path moving forward. It gives symbolic commitment to improve stormwater planning, and infrastructure so we can reduce cleanup during wild weather events. The decision was motivated by students across the world advocating for their futures.

What risks does Thunder Bay face due to climate change?

Climate change is more than just warming temperatures it is also all about extremes such as massive rainfall, the 2012 flood affecting intercity, forest fires in the northwest, etc. We are already seeing impacts of changing climate such as the evacuees from Pikangikum from forest-fires or evacuees from melting ice in northern First Nation communities. These extreme weather events are going to make Thunder Bay a hub for other northern communities. Thunder Bay needs to consider the increasing floods and wildfires on the surrounding northern communities.

What plans of action do you see Thunder Bay taking?

We just launched the start of community energy and emissions plan that has received over $200,000 to develop an energy and emissions plan for Thunder Bay to reach net-zero carbon emission by 2050. The plan will look at best practices specific to Thunder Bay. We are currently in the stage of looking at how citizens view the emergency and climate change. This will allow us to determine what we should focus on. Anyone can participate through a survey at https://getinvolvedthunderbay.ca/ closes February 20th. The data collected will help pick new engagement activities in the spring and summer to reduce emissions in Thunder Bay. At these engagement activities, citizens will have the opportunity to select some of the options for reducing GHG emissions that they think would be best suited for Thunder Bay.

Does thunder bay face unique challenges?

We have finished the data collection stage (woo!). The data collected looked at residential, transit, municipal, and industrial GHG emission data. In the spring we will be given baseline estimates for each of these sectors. A baseline estimate will allow us to identify the areas with the highest amount of emissions and the most potential for reduction. For example, transit is one area that we know will have to be addressed. How can we reduce the number of cars on the road and create a more bike-friendly and walkable city? This can address active transportation and transit transportation as well as what cultural changes need to be addressed for people.

What difference can Thunder Bay make?

In the northwest Thunder Bay is the hub. Once we establish our plan we can become a leader in our part of the province to make positive changes. As well, residents can change their habits to reduce emissions. We are also at the top of the Great Lakes watershed so we can have a large impact. To draw comparison we are looking at Sudbury who has already released its energy and emissions plan (PowerNow Sudbury https://www.greatersudbury.ca/live/environment-and-sustainability1/clean-energy-power-now-greater-sudbury/) to help develop our plan. Some studies estimate that municipalities are capable of controlling 40-60% of their climate emissions from energy supply, transportation decisions,to land use and neighbourhood layout.

What can regular civilians do to help?

People can get involved with Earthcare with their 7 acting working groups. They can email earthcare@thunderbay.ca to get connected to something that suits your interest. These working groups help facilitate some of the greening that occurs in Thunder Bay. Citizens can also consider their everyday choices such as saying no to the plastic bag, changing food patterns, and rethinking modes of travel to aid in the overall climate in Thunder Bay. You can participate in events such as the “Commuter challenge” in May/June.

What is the cost of declaring a climate emergency?

There is no cost to council. A climate emergency is symbolic and has no commitment from council to provide funds. As of right now, the cost is the energy and emission plan which is already fully funded. Regular city operations are also included in the budget.

How can declaring a climate emergency benefit Thunder Bay?

There is an advisory committee, made up of city councilors and private citizens, that meets to advise council on matters of EarthCare and the environment. The group talks to council and advises them on initiatives that support the plans that have been implemented in the city (Sustainability Plan, Climate Adaptation Strategy). The declaration keeps council accountable.

How will climate change affect Lake Superior?

Warming lake levels are a catalyst for invasive species due to warming weather from climate change. It also results in reduced ice levels. The climate emergency will also look at emissions and AOCs (area of concerns). They will support projects that help mitigate harmful impacts.

Our mission at InfoSuperior is to reduce and eliminate threats to Lake Superior, ensuring it’s appreciated for generations to come. We are committed to remediating areas of concern along Lake Superior to promote the longevity of our beautiful north shore.

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North Harbour Engagement Sessions – February 26th, 2020

A PUBLIC PRESENTATION is being held to gather community input on the sediment management options under consideration for the North Harbour Contaminated Site along the Thunder Bay North Shore.

Representatives from the Thunder Bay North Harbour Working Group, and Resilient Consulting Corporation, will be presenting a revised set of options for remediating the mercury-contaminated site. Your input is important.

Two sessions are being held at the Delta Waterfront Hotel (2240 Sleeping Giant Parkway, Thunder Bay, ON). The first session is from 2 to 4 pm with a presentation beginning at 3:00 pm. The second session runs from 6 to 8 pm with a presentation at 6:45 pm.

Date: Wednesday, February 26th, 2020

Location: Delta Hotel (2240 Sleeping Giant Pkwy, Thunder Bay, ON P7A 0E7)

Time (session 1): 2pm to 4pm, presentation at 3pm

Time (session 2): 6pm to 8pm, presentation at 6:45 pm

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