Areas of Concern

Thunder Bay RAP Milestone: Aesthetics Not Impaired

Extensive surveys of Thunder Bay Harbour were carried out in 2012, 2015 and 2016. The harbour was found to be free of slicks, scums, odours, foam, unnatural deposits, colour and turbidity. (Photo: infosuperior.com)

A significant milestone has been achieved bringing Thunder Bay Harbour one step closer to removal from the list of Great Lakes environmental “Areas of Concern.”

In a May 3rd letter to Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan Coordinator Samuel Pegg, Mike Goffin, Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Regional Director General for Ontario announced the following:

I am pleased to inform you that the Degradation of Aesthetics beneficial use impairment is hereby designated as, “not impaired”, pursuant to the provisions of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, 2012.

The International Joint Commission and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks are copied on the letter which also congratulates the Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan Public Advisory Committee, a group closely involved in harbour cleanup.


Thunder Bay Harbour was highly industrialized in previous decades, leading to substantial impacts on water quality and aesthetics. (Photo circa 1970 – Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks)

Aesthetics and Water Quality Aligned


Aesthetics and harbour water quality are closely linked. Degraded aesthetics refers to slicks, scums, odours, foam, unnatural deposits, colour or turbidity. These factors have severely affected Thunder Bay Harbour water quality and aesthetics.

A 2018 Remedial Action Plan report on harbour aesthetics notes that “When the waters in and around the City of Thunder Bay were designated as an Area of Concern in 1987, water quality, recreational use and the aesthetics of the Area of Concern were impacted by discharges of pollutants from local pulp and paper industries and wastewater treatment plants, urban runoff and the use of the harbour for logging booms and shipping waste. Persistent noxious odours, visible scum, organic material and oil deposits were observed.


The central portion of Thunder Bay Harbour circa 1970. A number of initiatives to improve industrial and municipal effluent treatment resulted in improved harbour water quality subsequent to this photo being taken. (Photo: Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks)

Improved Water Quality Resulted from Substantive Actions


The 2018 report recommends that “Degradation of Aesthetics” be removed from the list of Impairments in the Thunder Bay Area of Concern, based upon extensive harbour surveys in 2012, 2015 and 2016. The report notes several actions which have led to improved harbour water quality and aesthetics, including the following:

1991 – Bowater Pulp and Paper Mill upgraded their treatment technology to improve the quality of wastewater discharged to the Kaministiquia River. Cost – approximately $68 million. Proponent: Bowater Inc. (now Resolute Forest Products Inc.)

1995 – Abitibi–Consolidated Inc. completed the installation of secondary effluent treatment – Proponent: Abitibi–Consolidated Inc.

1997 – Smurfit-Stone Container Canada Inc. upgraded its treatment technology to improve the quality of wastewater discharged to Lake Superior. The cost of this upgrade is unknown – Proponent: Smurfit-Stone Container Canada Inc.

1999 – The City of Thunder Bay adopted the Pollution Prevention Control Plan to reduce urban pollutant loadings to receiving waters and to protect water resources. Proponent: City of Thunder Bay, Canada-Ontario Infrastructure Agreement

2002 – Northern Wood Preservers, Canadian National Railway Co., Abitibi-Consolidated Inc., Environment Canada and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment completed the Northern Wood Preservers Alternative Remediation Concept (NOWPARC). The project cleaned up contaminated sediment and improved fish and wildlife habitat, costing $25 million. Proponent: Abitibi-Price Inc., Canadian National Railway Inc., Northern Sawmills Inc., Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Environment Canada’s Great Lakes Cleanup Fund

2005 – The City of Thunder Bay upgraded to secondary treatment at the Water Pollution Control Plant to improve wastewater quality discharged to Lake Superior. The cost of this project was $73.6 million. Proponent: City of Thunder Bay, Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Environment Canada’s Great Lakes Cleanup Fund

2012 – A survey by kayak of all areas of Thunder Bay Harbour, including the Kaministiquia River up to the Resolute Forest Products outall concluded that there was no evidence of objectionable deposits, unnatural colour or turbidity, or unnatural odour.

2015 and 2016 – Surveys by boat of all areas of Thunder Bay Harbour, including the Kaministiquia River up to the Resolute Forest Products outfall concludes that aesthetic condtions in Thunder Bay Harbour are “good to excellent.”


Cleanup of creosote contamination around this former wood preserving facility on Thunder Bay Harbour was completed in 2003. The cleanup was one of several project which led to improved water quality and aesthetics in Thunder Bay Harbour (Photo: Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks)

Links:

Letter from Mike Goffin, Environment and Climate Change Canada stating that “Degradation of Aesthetics” has been removed from the list of environmental impairments in the Thunder Bay Area of Concern.

Report (2018) outlining factors which have led to improved harbour aesthetics and recommending removal of “Degradation of Aesthetics” from the list of Thunder Bay Area of Concern Beneficial Use Impairments.

Thunder Bay Remedial Action Plan, or cleanup plan, overview

List of Thunder Bay Area of Concern impairments and their status.


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