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Great Lakes Article:

Governments of Canada and Ontario report progress in restoring the environmental health of the Great Lakes Basin
CNW Telbec, Press Release
Published June 11, 2005

KINGSTON, ON Canada and Ontario have made major strides in improving water quality, rehabilitating fish and wildlife habitat and reducing toxic chemicals in the Great Lakes Basin, according to a new progress report on the first two years of the 2002 Canada-Ontario (COA) Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem.

The report was released today by Canada's Environment Minister, the
Honourable Stéphane Dion, and Ontario's Environment Minister, the Honourable Leona Dombrowksy, at a forum of Great Lakes managers and stakeholders at them International Joint Commission's 2005 Great Lakes Conference and Biennial meeting.

At the same time, both ministers congratulated community and agency
partners who collaborated in developing a sediment management strategy for the Cornwall waterfront, which was also introduced at the forum.

"Through agreements such as COA, we are continuing to build on past
successes in restoring the environment of the Great Lakes basin," said
Minister Dion. "The Cornwall Sediment Strategy is a leading-edge partnership and illustrates our common pursuit and continued commitment to a sustainable development."

"COA's success is due in large part to a tremendous commitment to
co-operation," said Minister Dombrowsky. "The Cornwall Sediment Strategy is a unique collaboration between governments, environmental groups and academics, which perfectly illustrates how well the partnership approach is working."

The Cornwall Sediment Strategy calls for contaminated sediments along the waterfront to be left undisturbed to allow natural recovery to continue. The strategy was developed after 30 years of environmental data showed that the mercury-contaminated sediments are stable and pose no risk to people or the environment.

A group of seven agencies from four levels of government (municipal,
provincial, federal and First Nations) are committed to an ongoing and active role in implementing the strategy. In addition, Environment Canada and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment have established a long-term monitoring program to ensure the strategy remains effective.

COA is a five-year agreement that builds on more than 30 years of
collaboration between the governments of Canada and Ontario in addressing Great Lakes issues. The COA outlines how the two governments will continue to work together to focus efforts and help clean up the Great Lakes basin ecosystem.

Implementation of the Canada-Ontario Agreement is co-ordinated by
Environment Canada and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.



The 2002 Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin
Ecosystem (COA) commits the governments of Canada and Ontario to work together and with groups and individuals to ensure a healthy, prosperous and sustainable ecosystem in the Great Lakes Basin.

The 2002 COA is a five-year agreement that builds on the actions taken
through previous agreements for federal-provincial cooperation on the Great Lakes. It defines priorities, including the clean-up of Areas of Concern (AOCs), responding to lakewide issues, the reduction of harmful pollutants and increased federal/provincial co-operation on a lake-by-lake basis.

The first biennial progress report on the 2002 COA describes the
achievements during 2002 and 2003, and highlights the roles played by local and regional governments, industry, and community and environmental groups in carrying out area projects that contribute to the protection of the entire Great Lakes basin ecosystem.

Some of the highlights from the report include:

Areas of Concern

Severn Sound

- In 2003, the Severn Sound area of Georgian Bay became the second
site to be removed from the list of Great Lakes sites - Canada's
Areas of Concern - that suffer from environmental problems. The
first to be removed was Collingwood Harbour in 1994. With the
delisting of Severn Sound, there are 15 Canadian AOCs, five of
which Canada shares with the U.S.

- Cleaning up the waters of Severn Sound required the actions of
both the federal and provincial governments, with strong support
from local municipalities and the public (including the Severn
Sound Environmental Association) over a 13-year period. The
efforts involved reducing phosphorus levels by controlling storm
water and rural runoff, protecting sensitive lands and threatened
habitat, and monitoring water and sediment quality and overall
ecosystem health.

Thunder Bay

- Thunder Bay Harbour suffers from many years of industrial
pollution and municipal wastewater discharge. While still on the
list of AOCs, major steps have been taken that include cleaning up
approximately 60,000 cubic metres of contaminated sediment.

- Also implemented were storm water control improvements, a program
to replace lost fish habitat, and tree planting. The city was one
of three municipalities to receive federal-provincial
infrastructure funding in 2002-2003 to upgrade its sewage
treatment plant.

Sewage Treatment Plants

- In addition to Thunder Bay receiving funding for upgrading its
sewage treatment plant, funding was also provided to upgrade the
St. Mary's River-Sault Ste. Marie East plant and the Detroit
River-Windsor plants.

Harmful Pollutants

Reducing PCBs

- Progress continued in reducing the number of federal and private
PCB storage sites in the Great Lakes basin. In 1993, there were
1,555 storage sites, but only 550 remained at the end of 2003.
In 1993, there were some 25,000 tonnes of high-level PCB wastes in
storage; in 2003, that amount had been reduced by about
86 per cent, to approximately 3,854 tonnes.

Dioxins and Furans

- Dioxins and furans were reduced by 84 per cent from a 1988
baseline. Much of the reduction resulted from efforts addressing
emissions from waste incinerators, iron ore sintering plants,
steel manufacturers and pulp and paper mills.

- Also involved in reducing these toxic chemicals were locally
developed pilot projects involving public education and outreach
in the Thunder Bay area, and Lanark and Leeds in Eastern Ontario,
to end the practice of burning trash and garbage in open barrels.
These "burn barrels" are in use on thousands of rural properties
and are the fourth-largest source of dioxins and furans in the


- The release of mercury into the Great Lakes basin has been reduced
from more than 14,000 kilograms a year in 1988, to just under
2,100 kilograms annually by the end of 2003. This is an
85 per cent decrease resulting from actions such as Ontario
regulations to ensure the successful closure of all the
70 existing hospital incinerators. New provincial standards for
incinerator operation have also reduced mercury emissions by an
estimated 400 kilograms a year alone, from year 2000 levels.

- Also contributing to the success of mercury reduction efforts is
the Switch Out Program, which focuses on collecting mercury
switches from scrapped automobiles in an effort to keep the
element out of the environment. Other efforts include reducing the
amount of mercury in fluorescent lamps and reducing the amount of
mercury discharged from dentists' offices.

Lake-wide Management

- Biennial Lake-wide Management Plan reports were completed in 2002
for Lakes Superior, Erie and Ontario. They describe the state of
the lake, causes of ecological impairment and actions required to
restore environmental quality.

- The Environmental Farm Plan Incentive Program supported
environmentally sound farm practices, including water quality
initiatives and farm buffer strips.

- The multi-agency binational Great Lakes Human Health Network was
initiated to share health information among governments and their
agencies. Work was also carried out on the establishment of the
complementary Canada-Ontario Public Health Network, to facilitate
communication on human and environmental health issues in the
Great Lakes.

- Fish samples continue to be collected and analyzed to monitor
remediation efforts and to keep the public informed on contaminant
levels through the Ontario Sport Fish Consumption Advisory

Monitoring and Information Sharing

- An inventory of ongoing environmental monitoring programs was
implemented to track trends and long-term changes in environmental
quality, ecosystem composition and function.

- Monitoring needs were reviewed for technical committees to support
the development and implementation of lake-wide management plans,
tracking of harmful pollutant loadings and reductions, and the
assessment of progress in restoring impaired uses in Areas of

- A system to share information and scientific data among
government, organizations and basin residents was initiated. The
new system, called Lakeviews, will provide easy tracking and
access to diverse environmental information gathered from through
out the Great Lakes basin.


- Signatories to the Agreement are the federal Ministers of
Agriculture and Agri-Food, Environment, Fisheries and Oceans,
Health, Heritage, Natural Resources, Public Works and Government
Services, and Transport; and the provincial Ministers of
Agriculture and Food, Environment and Natural Resources.

Ontario's involvement in COA is co-ordinated by Environment Canada and
the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.

Copies of the progress report are available from:
Environment Canada
Communications Branch, Ontario Region
4905 Dufferin Street
Downsview, Ontario M3H 5T4
(416) 739 4826

Web site:

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment
Public Information Centre
135 St. Clair Avenue West
Toronto, Ontario M4V 1P5
(416) 325-4000 or toll free 1-800-565-4923

Web site:

For further information: please contact: André Lamarre, Director of
Communications, Office of the Minister of Environment, (819) 997 1441; Mike Goffin, Director, Great Lakes and Corporate Affairs, Environment Canada, Ontario Region, (416) 739 4936; Art Chamberlain, Minister's Office, Ontario Ministry of the Environment, (416) 314-5139; John Steele, Communications Branch, Ontario Ministry of the Environment, (416) 314-6666; To receive automatic e-mail notification of all Environment Canada news releases, media advisories, and statements, please click on this URL to subscribe:


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