Non-Point Source Actions

Action NPS-1: Development of a Multi-Agency Sediment Management Program

Current Status: UNDERWAY

BUIs Addressed: Degradations of Fish and Wildlife Populations, Fish Tumours and Other Deformities, Degradation of Benthos, Restrictions on Dredging Activities

The most important of all the non-point source remediation activities is the development and implementation of a Multi-Agency Sediment Management Program for the St. Marys River system. This would be a long term program which would include the wide scope of planning, remediation, and monitoring activities described in the following list, many of which are touched on elsewhere in this report. It should be noted that this list includes a number of recommendations contained in the IJC’s 1998 status assessment, and several that were identified by the Clean Up and Restoration Task Team as described in section 5.4.
a) The sediment mapping in the St Marys River system should be continued until all significant zones of contaminated sediment, including those in the “down river regions,” have been included in the survey. Once these zones have all been located and identified, they should each be characterized, if they haven’t already, by determining their spatial distribution and by identifying and quantifying the contaminants within them. The identification would be done using the most current benthic, toxicity, and sediment chemistry studies (see Actions NPS-2 and NPS-3 below). The zones should also be ranked on the basis of toxicity and/or degradation of benthos.
b) Using the monitoring data described above, develop a consistent, scientifically defensible, and publicly acceptable decision-making framework that will identify remediation options and provide a logical basis to guide community-based management decisions on sediment remediation within the AOC (Krantzberg, 1998). This framework would contain, for example, the decision criteria used in identifying which zones require remediation and which remediation options are most appropriate for each zone. It would also provide the logical justification for these criteria and identify all of the data requirements needed for their application, thereby guiding decision making and providing the public with the means to understand and participate in the management process. Using available data, the framework would identify the range of remediation and disposal options for each site and would identify what additional information is needed to choose between them. Then, once this information has been obtained, it would guide the final selection of the most appropriate option (e.g., dredging, in situ treatment, capping, etc.).
c) Once the final options have been selected in consultation with the public, implementation would be carried out with agency support and would be guided by precisely defined, numerically quantified objectives developed by the sediment management teams and incorporated into the delisting criteria (see management Action MNG-1). These objectives would define the completion-point for both implementation and ultimate remediation, and would be the focus of appropriate monitoring activities, as described under item (h) below.
d) To prevent additional accumulation of contaminants, and also their re-accumulation following remediation, it would be necessary to implement, prior to sediment remediation, a strategy to identify and control all major point and non-point sources of contaminant loadings to sediments within the St. Marys River system.
e) The identification of contaminant sources, as described in item (d), would require a monitoring program that would track water and sediment quality at stations above, at, and below major dischargers, with the downstream limit for stations extending to the point of near-background conditions (IJC, 1998). It would also require the monitoring of any nonpoint sources (and tributaries) which may be contributing contaminants to the waterways within the AOC. The control measures, referred to in item (d), for point and non-point sources would include process upgrades at industrial and municipal facilities, cooperative environmental management agreements between industry and government, enforcement of government regulations, and the measures described below under Action NPS-6.
f) There would also be a requirement to monitor and control any resuspension of contaminants that may occur during sediment remediation activities (see Action NPSM-4c) or during the dredging of navigation channels (see Action NPSM-4d).
g) Atmospheric inputs of persistent toxic substances to the waters and basin of the River would also need to be tracked (IJC, 1998; see also Action NPSM-4a).
h) Appropriate monitoring of remediation, both short-term and long-term, would be a vital component of the sediment management program. The short term monitoring would track progress toward the immediate implementation objectives, whereas the long term monitoring would track ecosystem response to the remediation and control measures and the ultimate effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of these measures in meeting the delisting criteria. These monitoring activities, therefore, would provide the necessary information for adaptive management decisions on any changes or additions which may be required in the remediation strategy in order that it meet its designated goals.
i) The management program should also incorporate the benefits afforded by advancing technology. Thus, for example, remedial actions previously considered necessary but unrealistic, should be initiated once new technology makes them feasible, provided the necessity of these actions is still supported by current monitoring data and decision criteria.
j) All the above monitoring and remediation activities, furthermore, should be fully coordinated with those of the Lake Superior LaMP (IJC, 1998) and those of the various RAP task teams. Furthermore, since Lake Huron is downstream from the St. Marys River, they should also be coordinated with those of the Lake Huron Binational Initiative.

Primary responsibility for Action NPS-1 is to be shared jointly by Environment Canada and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, with the cooperation of local industry.

  • In 2008, the Canada-Ontario Decision-Making Framework for Assessment of Great Lakes Contaminated Sediment was developed by the Sediment Task Team on behalf of ECCC and the MECP as a consistent and scientifically defensible, and publicly acceptable decision making framework; the framework has been applied to the St. Marys River.
  • In 2009, ECCC and MECP formed a multi-agency sediment management technical team, which included represent-atives from Algoma University, DFO, MNRF, SSMRCA, and the City of Sault Ste. Marie. BPAC representatives occasionally participated in or observed the meetings.
  • In 2010, ECCC completed mapping and characterization of contaminated sediment.
  • In 2010, ECCC completed as study that concluded management action is not required for sediment upstream of Bellevue Marine Park and in the Lake George Channel. The Same study recommended further assessment for the area east (downstream) of Bellevue Marine Park
  • In 2012, the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre initiated a project to assess the quantity and quality of sediment being deposited in the area east of Bellevue Marine Park. The results are helping to identify suitable management actions for the contaminated sediment in this area. To date, MECP has contributed $29,000 for the modeling component of this project. ECCC has contributed $115,000 (excluding salary) for work related to sedimentation study (quantity and quality). ECCC also contributed $25,000 to initiate the sediment fate and transport model study in 2010.
  • ECCC contributed $135,000 and the MECP contributed $54,884 toward sediment assessment from 2010 to 2011 (excluding salary).
  • In 2012, with funding from ECCC, the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre commissioned a report that describes a Conceptual Site Model (CSM) for sediment in the St. Marys River and includes recommendations for further efforts toward a contaminated Sediment Management Strategy. The CSM represents the site-specific state of understanding of contaminant sources, fate, transport, and potential exposure of receptors.
  • A Dredging Administrative Controls document was created in 2016 that provides guidance for dredging proponents and permitting agencies on the regulatory oversights in the planning and undertaking of dredging activities. It was finalized in 2016, and will be linked to the planned Sediment Management Strategy
  • In early 2019, the CSM for the river was updated based upon new information available.
  • Sub-action (g) is beyond the scope of the AOC and RAP program. Atmospheric inputs are already addressed under a number of other programs (i.e. Lake Superior and Lake Huron Lakewide Management and Action Plans and in particular federal and provincial regulations with respect to domestic sources of atmospheric emissions).

  • The City has various stormwater management initiatives underway (described in detail under Action PS-2).
  • Sub-actions (f), (h), (i), (j) are pending and depend on the management actions taken under the Sediment Management Strategy.
  • Continued work on the Sediment Management Strategy is planned for 2019 with the recent completion of sediment quality, stability and biological studies.
  • ECCC is commissioning an update to the CSM, which is scheduled for completion by April 2019. It will support the development of the Sediment Management Strategy and community engagement on the strategy.
  • Further updates will be incorporated into the CSM based upon the findings of new studies from 2018, updated information on the status of the Algoma boat slip and information on the former federal docks at Purvis Marine. The CSM will be used to determine whether management action is required for the St. Marys River sediments.
  • If a requirement for management action is identified a sediment management options assessment will be initiated in 2019.

Action NPS-2: Further Characterize Several High Priority Areas

Current Status: UNDERWAY

BUIs Addressed: Degradation of Benthos

While there is a significant amount of information about sediment quality in a number of areas, there still remains a requirement to further characterize several high priority areas including the area adjacent to the slag dump, the East End Water Pollution Control Plant, the Algoma Slip, and Little Lake George. It is hoped that the information necessary to carry out this characterization of high priority areas will be provided by the study described below in Action NPS-3. These two actions are consistent with the recommendations of the Clean Up and Restoration Task Team and will provide important information for the successful completion of Action NPS-1a.

  • ECCC completed a Benthic Assessment of Sediment (BEAST) study in 2002 and 2008. The results from 2008 for the area upstream of Bellevue Marine Park indicated sediment management is not required at this area, but ECCC and MECP determined afurther study was required for the area east of Bellevue Marine Park (i.e., downstream of Topsail Island) and within the Lake George Channel.
  • In 2009 and 2010, ECCC completed additional mapping/ characterization of contaminated sediment in the area east of Bellevue Marine Park and within the Lake George Channel.
  • The Algoma Steel boat slip was dredged in 1995 (11,500 m3 ), 2005 (2,630 m3 ) and 2017 (10,906 m3 ) (see Action NPS-5)
  • In 2015, with financial support from ECCC ($15,000) Algoma Steel completed a sediment survey that provides current detailed information about contaminant concentrations in the slip. Results show elevated levels of PAHs, and confirm the slip is a depositional area for contaminated sediment within the AOC.
  • In 2011, with ECCC and MECP funding, the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre commissioned a sediment flow and transport model to determine whether sediment at depth could be exposed under various conditions. The modelling report concluded that deeper sediments (> 5 cm) were stable under a range of historical fl ow conditions (i.e. those measured over the last 100 years).
  • In 2011, the Innovation Centre also completed a geotechnical assessment of sediment in the area east of Bellevue Marine Park to determine the geotechnical properties of the sediment, the thickness of the sediment, and the vertical extent of contamination. The study found the sediment to be soft and relatively thick (2.5 to 4.5 meters), with the likelihood of hydrocarbon contamination in the uppermost 0.9 meters of sediment (contaminant analysis was not completed due to difficulty retrieving cores from the very soft sediment).
  • The above work was undertaken with financial support from ECCC and the MECP. To date, the MECP has contributed $29,000 for the modelling component of this project and $55,000 for the geotechnical work done in 2011 and 2012. From 2011 to 2014, ECCC contributed $135,000 toward sample acquisition for the sediment quantity and quality study.
  • For information on the Algoma Steel slag dump, see Actions NPS-4 and FF-9. For information on the Algoma Steel boat slip see Action NPS-5.
  • In 2018 a number of new assessment studies occurred related to contaminated sediments in the St. Marys River. A new study "Fish and Invertebrate Long-term Exposure to St. Marys River Sediments" was completed which examined the affects of St. Marys River on additional receptors. Data from the previous benthic invertebrate study (BEAST) was re-assessed using a new approach including an updated list of reference sites. Fieldwork was completed which included sampling associated with a new BEAST study, coring work east of topsail island in order to update the vertical characterization of the sediments in this area and the application of tracer compounds in that same area to aid in the future assessment of sediment accumulation.

  • Complete the ECCC sediment study in the area east of Bellevue Marine Park using a sediment accumulation model to determine the rate and chemical quality of new sediment deposition overtime. The project was completed in 2016, and will provide important information for developing the AOC sediment management strategy, beginning in 2017-18.
  • Reports will be completed for the 2018 BEAST work and coring work. Additional fish and invertebrate toxicity work will also be completed using sediment collected during the 2018 BEAST work.

Action NPS-3: Completion of the St. Marys River Contaminated Sediment Zones Evaluation

Current Status: COMPLETE

BUIs Addressed: Degradation of Benthos

A St. Marys River Contaminated Sediment Zones Evaluation (Kauss 1999b) was conducted (fall of 1999) to determine the extent and severity of sediment contamination from the Algoma Slag Dump, Algoma Slip, and a portion of the Lake George Channel downstream of the East End Water Pollution Control Plant. The Point aux Pins Bay area was also sampled. Benthic invertebrates were also sampled at these locations. Sediment chemical analysis is under way, and support has been provided by the Government of Canada’s Great Lakes Sustainability Fund for the analysis of the benthic samples and an interpretive report, the draft version of which was completed in September 2001. The final version of this report should receive high priority so as to make further recommendations for sediment remediation. The culmination of this study is an important prerequisite to the successful completion of Action NPS-1a.

  • Work completed has been previously described under Action NPS-1 and Action NPS-2.

  • Additional actions have been previously described under Action NPS-1 and Action NPS-2.

Action NPS-4: Identification and Control of Contaminants from the Algoma Slag Dump

Current Status: COMPLETE

BUIs Addressed: Degradation of Fish and Wildlife Populations, Fish Tumours and other Deformities

It is extremely important that contaminants originating from the Algoma Slag dump be identified and controlled to prevent continuing adverse impacts on the St. Marys River AOC.
a) In an effort to identify and quantify the impacts resulting from groundwater seepage, ASI has made a commitment in the three party EMA to continue a program of monitoring the landfill site to assess trends in groundwater quality. The groundwater monitoring will be conducted on a four-year cycle commencing in 2001 and again in 2005. The results of the monitoring 56 will be included in the first semi-annual report following completion of the studies as required in section 7.1 of the EMA. ASI has also committed to continue its efforts to reduce the overall load of material sent to the landfill for disposal and to develop and implement a suitable long-term plan for the waste disposal site describing its site operations and closure. The plan will be submitted to OMOE and EC as part of the February 1, 2002 semi-annual report. The executive summary of this, and other semi-annual reports, may be found on the Internet at the URL provided in section 1.4.
b) It is also necessary to minimize the impact of contaminated sediments adjacent to the landfill site. Although actions were taken in 1993 to stabilize the shoreline along the slag dump, there is relatively little shoreline stability in some areas. It is therefore recommended that action be taken, wherever necessary, to stabilize the shoreline and nearshore sediments of the slag dump (see Eberhardt, 2000). See also Action FF-9.

  • (a) This three-party Environmental Management Agreement (2001-2005) is complete.
  • Related to Action NPS-2: Starting in 2010, Algoma Steel has implemented an extensive ground and surface water monitoring program as part of the Environmental Compliance Approval for the landfill. Analysis is performed on a quarterly basis and reported annually to the MECP.
  • (b) For information on shoreline stabilization, see Action FF-9.

No further action required.

Action NPS-5: Evaluation of Algoma Slip Sediment and Implementation of Clean-up

Current Status: UNDERWAY

BUIs Addressed: Degradation of Benthos, Restrictions on Dredging Activities, Fish Tumours

The Algoma Slip sediment quality and quantity needs to be evaluated from an environmental perspective and remediated as required. This need is addressed in the three party EMA signed by ASI, EC, and OMOE, which includes among its objectives “the de-listing of the ‘beneficial use impairment’ associated with the ASI boat slip as identified in the Stage 1 report for the Remedial Action Plan (RAP) for the St Marys River.” To achieve this, Algoma has agreed to: (a) assess sediment contamination and submit a clean-up plan to OMOE in its Feb 1, 2001 semi-annual report, and (b) complete the clean-up and submit a summary report to OMOE in its first semiannual report following completion of the work (see the Internet site provided in section 1.4).

  • Subsequent to the 1995 dredging of the Algoma Steel boat slip and the removal of 11,500 m3 of sediment, Algoma Steel completed a sediment assessment that recommended the removal of sediment in the north end of the slip.
  • In 2006, Algoma Steel dredged the slip and removed an additional 2,630 m3 of sediment. The material was disposed at the licensed facility on the Algoma Steel property.
  • Algoma Steel, with financial support from ECCC ($15,000), hired a professional consultant to survey the slip and provide current detailed information about contaminant concentrations. The work was completed in early 2015. Results showed elevated levels of PAHs, and confirms the presence of an ongoing source of contaminants to the slip.

  • In 2017, Algoma Steel removed 10,906 m³ of sediment in an attempt to remediate the boat slip of contaminants such as PAHs. Dredging and remediation is planned to be completed in 2019. The company also plans to initiate a hydrogeological investigation into any ongoing sources of contaminants to the slip in 2019.

Action NPS-6: Control of Agricultural and Other Non-point Sources of Pollution

Current Status: COMPLETE [agriculture]; COMPLETE [urban stormwater]

BUIs Addressed: Eutrophication or Undesirable Algae, Degradation of Aesthetics, Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat

As recommended under monitoring Action NPSM-8, comprehensive studies should be carried out within the AOC to monitor agricultural runoff and other non-point sources of pollution such as road runoff into tributaries. Using the results of these studies, suitable measures to control these non point sources should be designed and implemented (see also actions FF-1 and FF-4). Examples of such control measures, might include, for example (depending on the results of Action NPSM-8):
a) limiting livestock access to surface waters,
b) proper management of manure piles and milkhouse waste disposal systems,
c) restoring and stabilizing stream banks to reduce erosion,
d) extending buffer strips along drainage ditches and streams, and
e) providing education and financial support to farmers to facilitate the implementation of these and other proper farm management practices.

Suitable criteria controlling and implementing these measures will need to be developed.

Agricultural-based pollution

  • In 2013-14, ECCC commissioned a study ($15,000) to: 1) determine the current potential for water quality impacts on the AOC from agricultural activities; 2) determine how this compares to other regions along Great Lakes that are not AOCs (as reference site) and to the agricultural sector in the Province of Ontario; and 3) inventory the current regulations and programs now in place that govern agricultural sources of water pollution in Ontario (i.e., which were not in place when Action NPS-6 was recommended, such as Ontario’s Nutrient Management Act, 2002 and Clean Water Act, 2006).
  • Overall, the study concludes impacts from Ontario-based agriculture in the AOC are low. Specifically, these farms around the AOC:                     - consist of small operations with mixed farming (diversity of livestock and crops) as opposed to larger, more intensive livestock farms in other jurisdictions like South Huron;                                                                       - utilize manure use/management that is much less risky for impacting water quality than other jurisdictions like South Huron (i.e., there are fewer farms occupying smaller acreage that tend to use composted or solid manure, not liquid); and                                                                      - have cut the use of commercial fertilizer – and although very few report using herbicides, insecticides and fungicides – the number that do is significantly lower compared to farms in South Huron and the rest of Ontario.
  • The report’s finding is similar to conclusions reached in the Sault Ste. Marie Region Source Protection Plan, which after assessing the impact of agricultural activities on the wellheads and surface water intakes in the Source Protection Area; concluded agriculture is of limited significance.
  • In addition: sub-actions (a), (b) are covered under Ontario’s Nutrient Management Act (MECP/ OMAFRA); (c), (d) are covered under regulations administered by the Conservation Authority; and (e) is covered under the Canada-Ontario Environmental Farm Plan.

Urban stormwater runoff

  • In February 2015, City Council approved the new Storm Water Management Master Plan and Guidelines.
  • The City undertook targeted monitoring between 2012 and 2015 to determine baseline:                                                                                      - water quality data for potential installation of oil/grit separators;              - data at the Bellevue Park pond to quantify the potential impairment and assess potential mitigating actions, and;                                                    - data at the East End Snow Dump to assess potential impacts and identify mitigating measures. Results were presented to the BPAC in 2016.
  • Continue to monitor and support progress in better managing urban stormwater as a non-point source of pollution to the AOC. This includes evaluating rainwater inflow and infiltration in the Dell Avenue sanitary sewer system for three years ending in 2016 to identify areas with high flows and thus potentially mitigate wastewater outflows and treatment bypasses to the St. Marys River.
  • Pending the City’s budgeting process, including approval by council, the City plans to implement a city-wide approach to stormwater management.
  • The City is implementing a stormwater management project that will help reduce the risk of flooding and help mitigate future damage from flooding by improving and upgrading the stormwater system. This infrastructure project is supported by $2.1 million in federal and $1 million in provincial grants and $2.5 million in municipal funds.
  • (see Actions PS-2 and PS-5).

No further action required.

Action NPS-7: Remediation for Contaminated Terrestrial and Aquatic Disposal Sites

Current Status: ADDRESSED

BUIs Addressed: Degradation of Fish and Wildlife Populations, Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat

If the monitoring initiated under Actions NPSM-9 and NPSM-12 determines that contaminated terrestrial or aquatic disposal sites within the AOC (i.e., those not already adequately covered by previous site-specific recommendations) are a danger to public health or the health of the ecosystem, then appropriate reporting and remedial actions should be taken to alert the public and rectify the situation. Measures should be taken to ensure that all hazardous contaminants are properly isolated and disposed of in a manner which is harmless to human health and the environment. Where appropriate, aquatic disposal sites, should they be found to exist, would be remediated under the sediment management program described in Action NPS-1. Enforcement measures should also be initiated wherever warranted.

  • Known contaminated terrestrial and aquatic disposal sites within the AOC are already addressed through other actions.
  • Known sites are being addressed and the related monitoring actions are outside of the scope of the RAP.

Action NPS-8: Plan and Implement Appropriate Remediation, Protection, and Enforcement Actions to Remove Any Potential Public Health Risks Identified by Action NPSM-10

Current Status: ADDRESSED

BUIs Addressed: No official BUI designated.

If the information obtained from monitoring action NPSM-10 confirms the existence of real or potential health risks to the smaller communities taking their water from the “down-river” regions of the St. Marys River system, then appropriate remediation, protection, and enforcement actions should be implemented to rectify the situation. These actions would include, but would not be limited by, those related actions described elsewhere in this Stage 2 Report. If it is determined, on the basis of information provided by Action NPSM-10, that those actions are insufficient, then additional remediation, protection and enforcement actions should be planned and implemented as required.

Action NPSM-10 is outside of the scope of the RAP program. Protection and enforcement actions are undertaken by the MOECC through the Incident Response Protocol. The MOECC notifies downstream residents of any incidents or spills as per the Incident Response Protocol. Subsequent follow up with individual residents is completed by Algoma Public Health. This action is also already addressed through the Conservation Authority’s Source Water Protection program and falls outside of the scope of the RAP program.