What is a RAP?
Remedial Action Plans or RAPs are three stage plans that aim to protect and restore Areas of Concern. Canada and the United States work together with conservation authorities, municipalities, Aboriginal communities, environmental groups, industry, special interest groups, and others to develop and implement the plans. The St. Marys River RAP partners have committed themselves to develop a RAP aimed at restoring BUIs in the watershed.
Preferred remedial options will identify:
- specific measures necessary to control existing sources of pollution,
- abatement measures for environmental contamination already present,
- monitoring methods to ensure success.
What are the RAP stages?
Stage 1: Identify environmental problems and sources of pollution.
In May 1992, “The St. Marys River Area of Concern Environmental Conditions and Problem Definitions Stage 1” document was prepared to summarize environmental conditions and problem definitions.
Stage 2: Evaluate and carry out actions to restore the area.
In March of 1999, the Delisting Criteria for the St. Marys River Stage 2 RAP document was completed by members of BPAC, concerned citizens, and representatives of RAP affiliated organizations. The Stage 2 document entitled “The St. Marys River Area of Concern Remedial Strategies for Ecosystem Restoration” was released in 2002.
Stage 3: Confirm that these actions have been effective and that the environment has been restored.
Currently there is an ongoing monitoring process in the St. Marys River Area of Concern. This process also documents evidence that uses have been restored.
Canadian St. Marys River Remedial Action Plan Milestones
1987 – St. Marys River was identified as an Area of Concern (AOC) under the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.
1988 – The Bi-National Public Advisory Council (BPAC) was formed – a stakeholder group with members from Canada and the United States that represents a variety of interests around the river.
1991 – The commissioning of a main filtration plant for wastewater discharged from Algoma Steel Inc.* that led to improved wastewater quality.
1992 – The first stage of the RAP for St. Marys River was completed. Federal and provincial government agencies worked with BPAC to identify specific environmental issues in the St. Marys River.
1995 – St. Marys Paper Ltd. installed an activated sludge secondary treatment facility that led to improved wastewater quality.
1997 – The St. Marys River Fisheries Task Group was established by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to coordinate fisheries assessment among Canadian and U.S. agencies.
1997 – 1999 – Algoma Steel Inc.* invests heavily in new water technology to reduce phenol concentrations in waste-water and optimize water re-use by up to 90% (e.g., new biological treatment facility to treat Cokemaking wastewater, new direct casting facility, toxicity control system on the Bar and Strip process effluent, and water recirculation system on Ironmaking Blast Furnace water facilities).
2002 – In partnership with the BPAC, the RAP Team completed the Stage 2 Report which recommended remedial actions to address the environmental challenges within the AOC.
2003 –The City of Sault Ste. Marie (ON) constructed a sanitary sewer overflow tank at Bellevue Park to address infiltration and high-flow events.
2006 – Sault Ste. Marie’s (ON) East End Wastewater Treatment Plant was upgraded to secondary treatment using the first Biological Nutrient Removal system in Ontario, which uses organic material instead of chemicals to reduce contaminants in wastewater.
2009 – Sault Ste. Marie (ON) launched an investigative study to identify ways to improve stormwater runoff and minimize the input of contaminants to the river.
2010 – The Sugar Island Monitoring Work Group released the last of three reports that confirmed episodes of floating solids and bacteria (E. coli) were due to natural causes and stormwater outfalls on both sides of the river.
2011 – The City establishes a stormwater master plan and policy to improve the quality and quantity of stormwater runoff around the community to minimize the input of contaminants to the river.
2013 – The RAP Implementation Annex is completed, which outlines the priority actions going forward to complete the AOC’s restoration.
➢ Undertake priority actions outlined in the RAP Implementation Annex to continue the environmental restoration of the St. Marys River.
➢ Develop a sediment management strategy for priority areas in the St. Marys River.
➢ Develop and implement a monitoring plan to track the remaining environmental issues in the St. Marys River.
Is the water quality improving?
Yes! Due to stricter environmental regulations and considerable improvements made by the City of Sault Ste. Marie and local industry, the water quality of the river has improved substantially since first being designated an AOC in the 1980s.
The City improved its wastewater quality by reducing biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) by over 96%, suspended solids by over 89%, and phosphorus levels have dropped by more than 91%.
Essar Steel Algoma reduced the amount of oil and grease entering the river via wastewater by more than 96%; suspended solids by over 94%, phenols by more than 99%, and ammonia by over 95%.
Prior to being decommissioned in 2012, St. Marys Paper Ltd. reduced the output of suspended solids by over 91%, (BOD) by more than 97%, and phenols by over 95%.