St. Lawrence River Restoration Council, Remedial Action Plan, Electronic Library

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St.Lawrence River (Cornwall AOC) Remedial Action Plan

RAP Program Overview

The Great Lakes Remedial Action Plan Program was created in 1987, when it was formalized in Annex 2 of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between Canada and the United States. Annex 2 outlines the commitment of both countries to an "ecosystem approach" for restoring and protecting environmentally degraded areas of the Great Lakes. An ecosystem approach considers humans, fish, wildlife and plants in environmental management.

In 1987, the Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Water Quality was signed to provide a more specific framework for restoring Areas of Concern in Ontario.

Each AOC has a Remedial Action Plan to help guide environmental improvements for a sustainable ecosystem. Remedial Action Plans are completed in three stages:

Once Stage Three is completed the AOC is considered “delisted”. The decision to delist is made by the federal, provincial and local RAP participants, with advice from the International Joint Commission.

The St. Lawrence River (Cornwall) AOC Completed a Stage 1 report in 1992. The report identified seven major environmental issues of concern. These included:

  1. mercury contamination
  2. PCB contamination
  3. the presence of other contaminants
  4. bacterial (fecal) contamination
  5. habitat destruction and degradation
  6. excessive growth of nuisance aquatic plants
  7. exotic species

In order to address these environmental concerns a Stage 2 Report was completed in 1997. Seven major impairments within the AOC were identified. These included:

  1. restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
  2. degradation of fish and wildlife populations
  3. degradation of benthos
  4. restrictions on dredging activities
  5. eutrophication or undesirable algae
  6. beach closings/water contact sports
  7. loss of fish and wildlife habitat

Three additional impairments were also listed as being potentially impaired pending additional research. These include:

  1. fish tumours and other deformities
  2. bird or other animal deformities or reproduction problems
  3. degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton populations

The report recommended 64 remedial actions:

  1. Ask the Federal and provincial governments to show more tangible evidence of their commitment to the goal of virtual elimination of persistent toxic contaminants by using their legislative authorities to ban the use of mercury and production of persistent toxic compounds like dioxins and dibenzofurands
  2. Recommend lead shot be banned from Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin is replaced by a non-toxic, non-bioaccumulating type of shot. Encourage anglers to switch to non-toxic sinkers and jigs through voluntary exchange programs such as the Bay of Quinte RAP's Take A Little Lead Out! Program.
  3. Recommend that parties to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement negotiate an agreement regarding long-range transport of airborne mercury and PCB's into the area of concern
  4. Recommend that the governments of New York State, Ontario, the United States and Canada developm and implement the Niagara River Toxics Mangement Plan and the Lakewide Management Plans, and recommend that theses palns call for elimination of the production, use and release of muercury and other persistent toxic substances like dioxins and dibenzofurans.
  5. Establish federal and provincial regulations banning the manufacture and sale of all detergents containing phosphates.
  6. Recommend that OMAFRA vigorously pursue its pesticides reduction goal in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin by encouraging improved chemical herbicide/pesticide application practices, integrated pest management and other alternative farming practices that reduce the environmental impact of pest and weed control.
  7. Recommend that all authorities involved in managing public lands, transportation routes and transmission corridors in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin do the following: (1) provide an inventory of their herbicide and pesticide use, and (2) develop and implement strategies that will reduce their use of these chemicals in the Basin by 50% by the year 2002.
  8. Ensure enforcement of legal limits set by MISA and Federal Pulp and Paper Regulations.
  9. Install state-of-the-art technologies that reduce or concentrate Domtar effluent
  10. Identify sources of PAHs in Domtar effluent and take steps to control or eliminate them.
  11. Track decommissioning of Courtaulds Fibres, ICI Forest Products (mercurycell process), Cornwall Chemicals and other closed plants via participation of RAP Team through MOEE and public consultation with PAC.
  12. Recommend that current and all future industries that are direct dischargers in the area of concern operate plants to achieve a compliance limit of 1 mg/L (monthly average) total phosphorus and an objective of 0.5 mg/L.
  13. Although air quality issues not affecting water quality are outside the RAP mandate, they are integral to ecosystem health. It is therefore recommended that the activity of the existing MOEE air monitoring working group for the City of Cornwall and surrounding area should be continued and expanded to include identification of remedial actions. This MOEE working group should be extended to include a public participation component.
  14. Implement a Canada/US monitoring program to track site-specific and AOC-wide impacts of American site remediation efforts in Massena
  15. Develop appropriate federal/provincial positions on remediation of the Reynolds Metals, ALCOA and GM sites by means of the Canadian Review Panel, which reviews the various cleanup plans for PCBs, PAHs, dioxins and dibenzofurans.
  16. In areas where contaminant levels in sediment are below the severe effect level but above the lowest effect level, implement source control measures to prevent further contamination of sediment and allow remediation of contaminated sediment to occur by means of burial by the natural sedimentation process.
  17. In areas where contaminant levels in sediment exceed the severe effect level for mercury, PCBs or other persistent toxic contaminants or where the sediment is found to be acutely toxic (i.e., the "hot spots"), prevent further contamination by implementing source control measures and remediate sediment by the most appropriate state-of-the-art technology (e.g., dredging, capping, in situ treatment).
  18. Participate in additional studies at Cornwall Harbour to determine if the land-based contamination is affecting the River. If there is an impact, ensure that the appropriate corrective actions are implemented to protect the River.
  19. Upgrade Cornwall sewage treatment plant to secondary treatment or equivalent treatment consistent with the MOEE Municipal MISA program.
  20. Recommend that the City of Cornwall provide carbon filtration treatment (or equivalent) for its drinking water to eliminate taste and odour problems.
  21. Find and eliminate the source of PCBs in spottail shiners collected from the Cornwall waterfront.
  22. Monitor progress in implementing recommendations of the City of Cornwall's Pollution Control Plan (PCP) to ensure that pollution problems associated with the City's sewer systems are corrected as recommended in the Plan.
  23. Encourage careful use of water by implementing a volume-based water pricing system.
  24. Require new dwellings to use water-saving devices such as low volume toilets and shower heads and institute a program of retrofitting old houses for water conservation
  25. Recommend that the City of Cornwall review and update its sewer use by-laws by incorporating the latest version of MOEE's Model Sewer Use By-Law.
  26. Recommend that the City of Cornwall modify the snow dump site to contain surface runoff, and that they undertake a feasibility study to find a more acceptable long term solution to the problem.
  27. Request that in its Official Plan, the City of Cornwall delineate zones of coal tar contamination and define development constraints for those zones and that a Notice on Title be registered for all of the affected properties.
  28. Upgrade Glen Walter sewage treatment plant to achieve a compliance limit of 1 mg/L total phosphorus and an objective of 0.5 mg/L.
  29. Recommend phosphorus removal to a compliance limit of 1 mg/L, with an objective of 0.5 mg/L, at all wastewater treatment systems along the St. Lawrence River upstream of Cornwall.
  30. Recommend that New York State install treatment facilities for phosphorus removal at its sewage treatment plants discharging into the St. Lawrence River and its tributaries.
  31. Control stormwater discharges from municipalities other than Cornwall, particularly roads and communities along the Raisin and St. Lawrence Rivers, by collecting and treating stormwater.
  32. Install proper septic systems on private shoreline properties where land is sufficient and can meet existing regulations; carry out inspections to ensure compliance.
  33. Where land is not sufficient, install holding tanks and institute municipal or other regulatory agency collection to the sewage treatment plant, with costs included in annual property tax assessments.
  34. As a long-term plan, install sewage treatment plants for river communities, including Summerstown, South Lancaster, Pilon Island, Cornwall Island and Bainsville,
  35. Inspect park and campground sewage disposal systems and correct deficient systems
  36. Where feasible, collect and treat stormwater and discharge at downstream end of beach
  37. Eliminate livestock access to surface waters by providing education and financial incentives to farmers and by enforcing existing regulations.
  38. Inspect manure piles and milkhouse waste disposal systems which have the potential to be sources of surface water contamination, and correct by: (1) providing education to farmers on how to correct the problem; (2) providing financial incentives to farmers; (3) enforcing existing regulations; (4) incorporating into municipal zoning by-laws, the Agricultural Code of Practice regarding manure/milkhouse wastes; (5) establishing a byconversion facility for production of fertilizer from manure and other organic sludges pending feasibility study (to determine available manure supply, interest in participation etc.).
  39. Endorse the Farm Environmental Plan program described in Our Farm Environmental Agenda as part of the development of an agricultural land stewardship program.
  40. Regulate discharges of grey water from new boats.
  41. Increase enforcement of existing regulation for discharge of black water.
  42. Support managed mechanical harvesting as a continued option for controlling nuisance aquatic macrophytes in selected areas of Lake St. Francis.
  43. Prohibit the use of chemical herbicides by individuals to provide access lanes for boating adjacent to shoreline. The only exceptions to be considered will be in artificial canals with no flow.
  44. Continue to allow individuals to physically remove (under permit) a pre-determined and limited amount of aquatic vegetation from the water in front of their property.
  45. Mechanically harvest plants over several hectares of Bainsville Bay to improve water circulation and flow in the Bay and increase dissolved oxygen levels.
  46. As a first priority, acquire all wetlands on Lake St. Francis now privately owned.
  47. As a second priority, secure all additional provincially significant wetlands in the watershed.
  48. Encourage municipalities to continue to implement the Provincial Natural Heritage Policy (1996) which requires all planning agencies to have regard for provincially significant wetlands in their planning decisions. The Policy calls for no development in provincially significant wetlands and no development on adjacent lands if the wetland will be affected. This policy is to be interpreted as part of all the new Planning Act policies by municipalities and agencies.
  49. Encourage municipalities to protect wetlands that are not designated provincially significant by requesting that they include development constraints and buffer zones around these areas.
  50. Establish a joint Quebec/Ontario/Mohawks of Akwesasne committee to coordinate the protection and management of wetlands in Lake St. Francis.
  51. Continue to use existing legislation (including the federal Fisheries Act, Public Lands Act, Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act, Conservation Authorities Act and Environmental Protection Act) to protect aquatic habitats (including fish habitat and wetlands) where this legislation applies. Continue to require a minimum compensation of 1:1 (new habitat created : habitat altered) for fish habitat harmfully altered by development activities. Minimum compensation should be 1:1 for like habitat on site; 1:2 for like habitat off site or replacement habitat on site; and 1:4 for replacement habitat off site.
  52. Change the existing provincial work permit system, to prevent any dredging or filling in any shoreline wetland unless that activity would directly enhance the function or value of the wetland.
  53. Develop and implement a program to identify the causes of wetland and aquatic habitat degradation in the area of concern, identify appropriate remedies and ensure their implementation
  54. Restore and enhance wetlands by using, where appropriate and pending the EA and CEAA processes, techniques such as controlled water level impoundments, construction of open water habitats (level ditching) and shoreline reconstruction
  55. Develop an integrated planning approach for shoreline development based on resource management information which would be collected and managed in a collective GIS-based database. This would include information on fish & wildlife species in the affected area, habitat type and degree of expected alteration, impacts on nearshore water currents and potential erosion impacts, and potential impacts on water quality.
  56. Restore shallow-water reef habitat by constructing artificial reefs at various locations including Bainsville Bay-Pointe Mouillee and the Cornwall waterfront, giving priority to areas closer to the power dam.
  57. Work with the Mohawks of Akwesasne to protect fish habitat and prevent shoreline degradation.
  58. Encourage the enhancement of the protection, number, size, quality and distribution (i.e., reduce fragmentation) of certain terrestrial habitats (i.e., mature and overmature forests, riparian habitats) and their dependent species.
  59. Using the present regulatory system, continue to permit small, privately-owned shoreline properties to be stabilized on a site-by-site basis (includes shorelines of Lake St. Francis and tributaries) using erosion control techniques such as rip-rapping, revegetation, natural revetments and construction of offshore wave barriers and reefs.
  60. For specific problem areas, design the appropriate stabilization technique and implement the work as a government initiative either with public funding only or on a cost-shared basis with the landowner.
  61. Design a shoreline stabilization project for Pointe Mouillee, based on the completed feasibility study, which incorporates the appropriate wetland and fish habitat protection and enhancement measures.
  62. Recommend that all regulatory agencies ensure that no accidental introductions of exotic species occur in the area of concern and that any planned introductions are subject to the appropriate level of provincial and federal environmental assessment.
  63. Recommend mandatory regulation requiring treatment or exchange (or some other technique) to ensure that ballast water cannot be a carrier for the introduction of exotic species into the area of concern.
  64. Discontinue chlorination as a control measure for exotic mussels as soon as a more environmentally sound method becomes available.

In order to implement actions identified within the Stage 2 Report the St. Lawrence River Restoration Council (SLRRC) was formed in 1998.The SLRRC is comprised of members from local organizations, general public, industry, municipalities, the St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences, the Raisin Region Conservation Authority, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, Environment Canada, and the Ontario Ministries of the Environment and Natural Resources.