Non-Point Source Monitoring Actions

Action NPSM-1: Monitor EEWWTP and Identify Upstream Sources to Determine Concentrations and Loadings of Persistent Contaminants Exceeding Guidelines in Lake George Channel Sediments


BUIs Addressed: Degradation of Benthos

Further evaluation of the East End Water Pollution Control Plant effluent is required to determine concentrations and loadings of persistent contaminants exceeding guidelines in Lake 58 George Channel sediments. In addition, the relative contribution of upstream sources, including point and non point sources, and their loadings to sediment contamination in Lake George Channel and Little Lake George should be investigated (Kauss and Nettleton 1999). The information provided by this action should be regarded as contributory to Action NPSM-10.

EEWWTP was upgraded to secondary treatment near the end of 2006, and the discharge pipe was relocated to deeper waters.  The plant now uses biological nutrient removal to significantly diminish phosphorous, nitrogen, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and ammonia. It also uses UV light for disinfection. Th is action is no longer applicable given the upgrades to the EEWWTP. Moreover, the Lake George Channel area has not been identified for sediment management action.

Action NPSM-2: Aerial Monitoring of the Cannelton Industries Site

In 1998, Cannelton Industries submitted a report entitled “Stability of Tannery Bay Sediments”, which will provide a baseline for monitoring whether sediment erosion is occurring at the site. In preparation for the required 5-year site review, aerial photographs will be reviewed to determine any changes to the shoreline. In addition, site monitoring will include visual inspection of the bay from a boat. Elevations of the top of sediment will be measured at several established locations to exclude changes in surface elevation of sediment over time.

Action NPSM-3: Biological Monitoring at the Cannelton Industries Site to Ensure Protection of the Ecological Food Chain

Biological monitoring of the sediments in Tannery Bay will also be conducted to ensure that the natural remedial processes described earlier (i.e., capping with clean sediment) are having the desired effect and will provide the necessary degree of protection to the ecological food chain. A biological monitoring program has been implemented at Cannelton Industries site, to evaluate the bioavailability of site contaminants to aquatic organisms and wildlife. A baseline study in Tannery Bay using caged clams was completed in 1997 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A second round of biological monitoring was conducted in 2000, and a third round is scheduled for 2003. Sampling results will be used during the required 5-year site review, to determine whether the site remedy continues to provide adequate protection for human health and the environment.

Action NPSM-4: Task Team Monitoring Recommendations

Current Status: UNDERWAY

BUIs Addressed: Degradation of Benthos, Restrictions on Dredging Activities

a) Continue with data collection at air quality monitoring network. [See Actions PSM-2, 4, 5]
b) Determine disposal options for dredged material following Provincial Sediment Quality Guidelines for Open Water Disposal of Dredged Spoils. [EC, OMOE (See Action NPS-1)]
c) Monitor change and impacts of remedial activities. [EC, OMOE (See Action NPS-1)]
d) Establish monitoring program for potential dredging and sediment dispersal within navigation channels. [USACOE, TC, MDEQ, EC, OMOE (See Action NPS-1)]

  • (b) This sub-action has been completed. Given the complexity of sediment management in the St. Marys River a multi-agency approach is needed to oversee dredging. The Conservation Authority is the local permitting agency for dredging operations on the Ontario side of the river; and the MECP reviews and approves disposal options for dredged materials. As mentioned under NPS-1, a multi-agency Dredging Administrative Controls document was developed that provides guidance for dredging proponents and permitting agencies on the regulatory oversights in the planning and undertaking of dredging activities. The document was completed in 2016, and will be linked to the planned multi-agency Sediment Management Strategy. Since it's creation, the Dredging Administrative Controls document has been shared and used for a proposed dredging project in 2018.

  • (a) This sub-action is ongoing.
  • (c) This sub-action is pending until sediment management actions have been determined in the Sediment Management Strategy.
  • (d) Guidance will be developed by the Sediment Task Team as part of the Sediment Management Strategy to provide information to those considering any type of activity that may disturb contaminated sediment within the AOC.

Action NPSM-5: Re-sampling of River Sediments to obtain Trend Information

Current Status: UNDERWAY

BUIs Addressed: Degradation of Benthos

As part of the long term monitoring program described under Action NPS-1(h), re-sampling of river sediments should be carried out systematically to obtain trend information on sediment 59 quality and benthic community status. The period for re-sampling should be adjusted in accordance with the number and magnitude of remedial actions which have taken place since the last sampling time. It has also been recommended that future surficial sediment quality surveys near the Algoma slag dump should incorporate benthic community assessment (Kauss 1999a).

  • A number of ECCC and MECP studies have been carried out within the St. Marys River in order to assess the contaminated sediment in accordance with the Canada-Ontario Decision-Making Framework for Assessment of Great Lakes Contaminated Sediment.
  • Sampling for these studies has included areas within Lake George Channel (including the area around the EEWWTP), Little Lake George, Bellevue Marine Park, the area east/downstream of Bellevue Marine Park.
  • Given this significant investment and the numerous study reports that have been produced over the past decade, ECCC hired the MMM Group ($10,000)to develop GIS-based maps that compile and synthesize existing sediment data in an illustrative manner. The maps were shared with BPAC in July 2015, and an interactive version is available online. The maps summarize and illustrate the results of over 10 years of study on contaminated sediment on the Canadian side of the AOC, presenting data collected from over 100 sites sampled by ECCC and the MECP since 2012.
  • As noted under Action NPS-1 and NPS-2, the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre completed a number of projects to assess the quantity and quality of sediment being deposited in the area east of Bellevue Marine Park. The results indicate:                                                              - the deeper sediments (> 5 cm) are stable under a range of historical flow conditions (i.e. those measured over the last 100 years); and            - the sediment is soft and relatively thick (2.5 to 4.5 meters), with the likelihood of hydrocarbon contamination in the uppermost 0.9 meters of sediment.
  • As noted under NPS-1, in 2018 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.

  • Results compiled to date indicate that contaminated sediment is low risk within the AOC, however, data is being reviewed in conjunction with other biological studies. The information will be factored in during the development of the multi-agency sediment management plan (see Action NPS-1).
  • Reports will be completed for the 2018 BEAST and coring work. Additional fish and invertebrate toxicity work will also be completed using sediment collected during the 2018 BEAST work.

Action NPSM-6: Benthic, Toxicity, and Sediment Chemistry Studies at Bellevue Marine Park

Current Status: COMPLETE

BUIs Addressed: Degradation of Benthos

Benthic, toxicity, and sediment chemistry studies using core samples should be continued in the Bellevue Marine Park area and at reference locations to confirm and document further improvements in water and sediment quality (see also Action NPSM-7). If improvements continue to occur, then further remediation may not be necessary (Kilgour and Morton 1998).

  • The Canada-Ontario Decision–Making Framework for Assessment of Great Lakes Contaminated Sediment was applied to St. Marys River from 2002-2010. Although contaminants were elevated in Bellevue Marine Park, this area was the least biologically impacted and does not require sediment management action.
  • Sediments from some areas east of Bellevue Marine Park and lower parts of Lake George Channel elicited some toxic responses from tested organisms and/or showed impaired benthic communities. Management actions are required for some of these sites east of Bellevue Marine Park and two sites in Lake George Channel.

No further action required in the BMP area.

Action NPSM-7: Assess Potential Health Risks Resulting from Floating Contaminated Masses

Current Status: COMPLETE

BUIs Addressed: Beach Closures

Determine if the recreational activities (e.g., swimming, boating) in the region of the Bellevue Park, and downstream, have a significant potential to expose members of the public to dermal contact with floating contaminated masses. If so, determine the health risks posed by such contact. If these risks are significant, take whatever actions are necessary to protect the public.

  • From 2007-2010, the binational Sugar Island Monitoring Workgroup undertook intensive monitoring in the St. Marys River and concluded that the EEWWTP is not a source of ongoing elevated E. coli bacteria levels or debris/garbage to the St. Marys River. Laboratory analysis confirmed t hat floating material was predominantly comprised of algae, detritus and pollen, and a significant source of E. coli bacteria is believed to be stormwater runoff on both sides of the river.
  • Since 2010, there have been no reported occurrences of floating masses in the Bellevue Marine Park area (previously thought to be from the sediment). Contaminated sediment in the vicinity of the park and downstream has been/is being assessed by the Sediment Task Team (see Action NPS-1 and Action NPS-2).

No further action required. The Stage 2 RAP identifies three actions needed to address the Beach Closings BUI, including Action NPSM-7. The other two were: Reduce stormwater infiltration at the East End Wastewater Treatment Plant (Action PS-2); and Upgrade East End Wastewater Treatment Plant to secondary treatment (Action PS-3). A BUI redesignation report was completed in 2017 that recommended the Beach Closings BUI be changed to not impaired status. It accounts for the significant improvements in overall water quality and efforts to address sources of E. coli to the AOC, including the confirmation that the floating masses are predominantly comprised of algae, detritus and pollen, and not a significant source of E. coli bacteria. The Beach Closings BUI redesignation report also accounts for a multiyear beach quality assessment completed in 2016 that indicates no major anthropogenic sources of bacterial contamination on the Canadian side of the St. Marys River, and that the AOC is comparable to non-AOC areas. The BUI was removed on the US side of the AOC in July 2016 and on the Canadian side in October 2018.

Action NPSM-8: Monitor Non-Point Sources of Pollution in the AOC

Current Status: COMPLETE

BUIs Addressed: Eutrophication or Undesirable Algae, Beach Closings; Degradation of Aesthetics

Comprehensive studies should be carried out within the AOC to monitor agricultural runoff and other non-point sources of pollution such as stream bank erosion and runoff into tributaries at road crossings. Particular emphasis should be given to those regions of the AOC for which there is a shortage of data. The study should also identify and alert the public to any potential public health hazards which may result from these sources.

  • In 1998, the Town of Echo Bay installed a communal sewage treatment system, which addressed the historical nutrient-loading issues related to individual septic beds. 
  • Algoma Public Health approves septic systems within the Algoma region, and has assessed the performance of these systems. In 2009, Algoma Public Health completed a survey of private septic systems on Pine Island. Although many of these systems are aging (installed in the 1940s-50s), the study did not find any major concerns.
  • In 2016, based on information provided by Algoma Public Health, Algoma University completed a summary report on beach closings within the AOC from 2012 and 2016, and compared these to beaches outside the AOC. Exceedances of E. coli levels above the Provincial Water Quality Objective (PWQO) do not appear to be any more prevalent at beaches within the AOC versus outside the AOC. This multi-year beach closings assessment was part of a Beach Closings BUI redesignation report recommending that the Beach Closings BUI be changed to a not impaired status. It indicates no major anthropogenic sources of bacterial contamination on the Canadian side of the St. Marys River, and that the AOC is comparable to non-AOC areas. The Beach Closings BUI was redesignated to "not impaired" in October 2018.
  • ECCC and the MECP provided financial support ($140,000) to Algoma University to undertake a comprehensive water quality monitoring study of the St. Marys River. For three years (2013-15), Algoma University collected water samples at five sites throughout the Canadian side of the river on 23 occasions between November 2013 and October 2015. The samples underwent analysis by a third party (Testmark Laboratories - Sudbury), evaluating the water for a number of aesthetic, physical and chemical parameters. The results were compared to relevant water quality and recreational standards and guidelines, and tested against the delisting criteria established for the Eutrophication/Undesirable Algae and Degradation of Aesthetics beneficial use impairments.
  • Results from the water quality study indicate that, at the sites investigated from 2013-2015, there was no evidence of objectionable deposits, unnatural colour, unnatural turbidity, and/or unnatural odour, and therefore, no problems associated with degraded aesthetics as defined. And, oxygen stress is non-existent, large algal blooms and high concentrations of chlorophylla are absent, and the vast majority of nutrient measurements (phosphorus, carbon, nitrogen) are below the recommended guidelines and within the levels typically found on either oligotrophic or mesotrophic waters, but not eutrophic waters.
  • The final report was shared with BPAC in September 2016, and BPAC agrees with the conclusion that the delisting criteria have been met, and both the aesthetics and eutrophication/algae BUIs should be deemed "not impaired". These two BUIs were redesignated to "not impaired" in October 2018.

No further action required. The BUIs associated with this action (Eutrophication or Undesirable Algae, Beach Closings, Degradation of Aesthetics) have been redesignated to a "not impaired" status on the Canadian side of the AOC in October 2018. Redesignation reports have been drafted accounting for the significant improvements in overall water quality and efforts to address sources of E.coli to the AOC. On the US side of the AOC: the Beach Closings BUI was removed in July 2016; Degradation of Aesthetics in March 2014; and Eutrophication/Algae in December 2016 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stemming from separate assessments by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Action NPSM-9: Identify Terrestrial and Aquatic Disposal Sites Transferring Contaminants into Waterways

Current Status: ADDRESSED

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

Monitoring should be carried out to identify any terrestrial or aquatic sites (legal and illegal) which have been used for the disposal of contaminated or hazardous material and which may have been leaching or otherwise transferring contaminants into the streams, rivers, lakes, and groundwater within the AOC (see also Action FF-5). Should such sites be found to exist, the contents of the sites, and the offending contaminants within them, should be identified and their impacts assessed. If any of these sites are found to pose a real or potential hazard to public health or to the ecosystem, the public should be alerted to the nature and magnitude of these hazards and appropriate remediation and enforcement actions should be taken as described under Action NPS-7.

This action is already addressed through the MOECC’s regulatory programs and falls outside of the scope of the RAP program.

Action NPSM-10: Assess Health Risks to Communities and Individuals Taking Their Water From the “Down-River” Regions of the St. Marys River System

Current Status: ADDRESSED

BUIs Addressed: No official BUI designated

The drinking water supplies to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan are not impaired, since they originate either from aquifers or from the unpolluted upstream region of the St. Marys River near Lake Superior. Some small communities, however, take their water from regions of the river system which are downstream from the various point and non-point sources of contaminants within the AOC. Monitoring should therefore be carried out to determine if these downstream communities are at risk due to water borne contaminants. In particular, it should be determined if the contaminated sediments located in these “down-river” regions of the St. Marys River system (e.g., Lake George) pose a potential health risk to the communities taking water from these parts of the River. Furthermore, it should be determined if there has been any disposal of contaminated soils and other materials within this part of the river system which could also pose such a risk (see Action NPSM-9). If any of the above mentioned health risks are confirmed, then the public should be alerted to these risks and informed of the causes (see Actions RE-2 and RE-4), and appropriate remediation, protection, and enforcement actions should be implemented to rectify the situation (e.g., see remedial actions described in sections 4.3 and 5.3).

This action is already addressed through the Conservation Authority’s Source Water Protection program and falls outside of the scope of the RAP program.

Action NPSM-11: Assess the Potential Hazards Associated With Spills from Shipping Vessels

Current Status: COMPLETE

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

Studies should be carried out by the agencies, if they have not already done so, to examine the historical frequency and nature of significant spills from shipping vessels within the AOC, and to determine the likelihood of major spills occurring in the future. An assessment should also be made of the potential health and environmental impacts of a major spill, should it occur, and of the adequacy of the existing prevention and response measures in protecting the public and the environment. The public should also be informed of those cargoes which pose the greatest risk by virtue of their toxicity, bulk, and frequency of shipment. If studies such as these have already been carried out by the agencies, they should be made available to the public.

  • In 2012-2013, ECCC commissioned an assessment and report on vessel-based discharges to the St. Marys River. The cost was $10,000. Even though Action NPSM-11 calls for an assessment on shipping vessels, the report looks at all vessels from large freighters to small personal watercraft.
  • Covering a decade of reported cases [from 2001 to 2011], the report summarizes the suspected causes, pollutant types, discharge severity, season and timing of the spill/discharge as captured by the Canadian Coast Guard’s “Marine Pollution Incident Reporting System” database.
  • The St. Clair River AOC is also assessed in the report, and to provide context, it compares the AOC-specific incidents with those that have happened around the Great Lakes system as recorded by Canadian authorities.
  • Based on the decade’s worth of data, it is concluded that, “the number of vessel discharge incidents within the St. Marys River AOC vary from year to year, but remains fairly low.” Key facts include:                                      - the prevalence of vessel discharges in the St. Marys is very low (3%), with 14 reported incidents compared to 39 within the St. Clair River AOC and 380 in the Great Lakes [433 in total].                                                   - the proportion of pollution (i.e., number of litres discharged) in the St. Marys River is very low (<2%), with 1,941 litres entering the river compared to over 104,885 litres discharged to the Great Lakes; and of that total number of litres discharged to the St. Marys River, almost 98% of it is attributed to a single incident involving an ‘operational discharge’ in 2007 (1892.71 litres of diesel oil was discharged).                                 - there exists a number of domestic, binational and international regulations/standards, agreements and programs that oversee vessel operations; and prevent, mitigate, and monitor vessel discharges in the Great Lakes system.

No further action required. 

Action NPSM-12: Identify Locations Within the AOC Which are Associated With Elevated Levels of Human Health Disorders

Current Status: ADDRESSED

BUIs Addressed: No official BUI designated

Studies should be carried out in those regions of the AOC which are near confirmed or potential sources of hazardous contaminants (e.g., landfills and other disposal sites, abandoned industrial sites, or sites identified under Action NPSM-9), in order to determine if those who have lived or worked in these regions are manifesting elevated levels of health disorders known to be associated with present or past exposure to toxic substances. The studies should identify statistical or causal relationships between any observed region-specific health anomalies and the 61 contaminants known to have been present. Should such relationships be discovered, then, depending on their degree of statistical significance, appropriate measures should be initiated (see Action NPS-7) to address any real or potential public health hazards which might exist. Wherever warranted, these measures would include (a) restricting public use of the identified source areas, and (b) ensuring that all contaminants in these areas are properly isolated and disposed of in a manner which is harmless to human health and the environment. Furthermore, the results of the above mentioned studies should be made readily accessible to the public and the local medical community.

The issue of human health is addressed through the Conservation Authority’s Source Water Protection program and actions relating to the beach closings and fish consumption advisories BUIs. This particular action falls outside of the scope of the RAP program.